Living in Toronto, seeing orange traffic cones signify one of two things: road work or a film or television production. I’ve seen plenty of the former and latter over the past 15 years, but never a full-on road closure for a television production. Until earlier this summer.
The reason? Global’s crisis negotiation drama, Ransom. The co-production between the Canadian network, CBS in the U.S. and TF1 in France (Toronto’s Sienna Films and eOne are among the production partners) closed down a block near the Eaton Centre, filming a bank heist scene taking place during one of 13 episodes. Yellow barriers and Toronto police redirected traffic while black SUVs and cop cars emblazoned with the NYPD logo sat staggered in front of an old office building standing in for a bank. A phalanx of actors portraying SWAT police trooped down the street during several takes as a drone buzzed loudly overhead, capturing the action.
Ransom stars Luke Roberts (Black Sails) as Eric Beaumont, a hostage negotiator who jets to locales around the world talking criminals out of dire situations. The hook? Eric doesn’t carry a gun, preferring to use his gift of patter to disarm the bad guys. Based on the real-life experiences of negotiator Laurent Combalbert, executive producer Frank Spotnitz (The X-Files) says this is the biggest international show he’s done.
“I was told about Laurent about two and a half years ago,” Spotnitz says. “It already makes a great TV show, because, in the case of Laurent, every case is 24 to 48 hours. They are naturally adrenaline and suspense-filled. And he doesn’t carry a gun. That’s crazy. I’ve done lots of shows, including The X-Files, where people solved their problems with guns. To have a guy who says, ‘No guns. I’ll solve this with my mind,’ is a challenge but I wanted to do a show like that.”
Rounding out Ransom‘s cast is Sarah Greene (Penny Dreadful) as Maxine Carlson, a girl with a secret; Brandon Jay McLaren (Slasher) as Oliver Yates, a psychological profiler; and Nazneen Contractor (Covert Affairs) as ex-cop Zara Hallam. After filming in Toronto for several months—the city stood in for North American locations—the series decamped for the south of France, with the area representing European spots.
Spotnitz, who lives in London, full-time says he fell into the current production model where several countries toss production money into a hat and share costs but sees it as the way of the world now, where viewers are watching programs both traditionally and non-traditionally (like his The Man in the High Castle on Amazon).
“When I moved to London, I sort of fell into this model,” he says. “It’s an amazing time to be in Europe. There is a real awakening of television and a new ambition to do shows in the English language that compete with the best shows in North America. It’s challenging to do a show for two or three broadcasters but I enjoy it, travelling and getting to know all of these different cultures.”
Ransom airs during the 2016-17 broadcast season on Global and CBS. Look for more Ransom coverage on TV, Eh? as we get closer to a broadcast date.