Global’s Ransom—debuting Sunday, Jan. 1, on the network before moving to Saturdays on Jan. 8—is a fast-paced emotional roller coaster about a crisis negotiation team dropped into potentially deadly situations at a moment’s notice. For Canadian actor Brandon Jay McLaren (Slasher) and Ireland’s Sarah Greene (Vikings), joining the series was just as quick and last-minute: they were cast just days before production on Season 1 began.
“I found out, like, four days before we started shooting that I had gotten the part,” McLaren says with a laugh. “I had to get on a plane in Los Angeles in a day. There was not a lot of prep [for the role].” The same was true for Greene, who found out she’d scored her gig on a Wednesday and needed to be in Toronto for the following Sunday. But while neither had time to prepare for their roles in advance, they’ve gotten a crash course since filming began. McLaren portrays Oliver Yates, a psychologist and profiler who sizes up people and situations in an instant, a key member of Eric Beaumont’s (Luke Roberts, Wolf Hall) crisis negotiation team. Greene’s Maxine Carlson, meanwhile, is the newbie on the squad, introduced in the first moments of Episode 1 and able to quickly prove she’s valuable to have around … despite Oliver’s misgivings.
“Eric and I met years ago, during another hostage taking, and I am very protective of Eric because I know something about his past,” McLaren explains. “When Maxine shows up, I am not happy she’s involving herself with our program because she brings a lot of emotion and instability to Eric and we can’t afford that. I’m very standoffish with her in the beginning, only because I was to protect what we’ve got going.” What Oliver and Eric have got going is something rare within the crisis industry. Inspired by the real-life experiences of hostage negotiator Laurent Combalbert, Eric refuses to carry a gun, preferring to use words and turn of phrase to diffuse deadly scenarios.
“I was told about Laurent about two and a half years ago,” Ransom‘s executive producer Frank 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.” Eric’s skills are shown moments into Sunday’s debut when he confronts a gun-wielding man holding parishioners hostage inside of a church. Everyone gets out safely, but things are dodgy there for a few seconds and even Eric’s longtime team member, and former cop, Zara Hallam (Nazneen Contractor, Covert Affairs) had doubts.
“I exposed an internal crime ring at the NYPD,” Contractor says of her character during a break in shooting in downtown Toronto. “I was fired and shortly thereafter Eric approached me to join his company. She’s a misfit with a very strong sense of honour and moral compass. Zara is the expert who knows every building entrance and exit, who is armed and not armed. I’m his eyes.” She also trusts Eric; like him (and the rest of the team), she no longers uses bullets to solve problems.
Ransom, a co-production between Global, CBS in the U.S. and TF1 in France (Toronto’s Sienna Films and eOne are among the production partners) truly is an international affair both in front of and behind the camera. Spotnitz’s Season 1 writing room consists of Canadians Sara Dodd, Annmarie Morais and David Vainola and homegrown directors Érik Canuel, James Genn and Eleanore Lindo. 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.
“It sucks,” Contractor teases. “We have to stay in the south of France for three months, live in Nice, shoot five episodes, live on the Riviera … it’s a really hard job and not for the faint of heart.”
Ransom debuts Sunday, Jan. 1, at 8:30 p.m ET on Global before moving to Saturdays at 8 p.m. ET/PT beginning on Jan. 7.
Images courtesy of Global.