With the success of the John Wick franchise, it was only a matter of time before we saw this impressive world expand. And now, audiences will get a closer look at The Continental for a special three-night event that begins this Friday, September 22nd. The new series, directed by Albert Hughes, focuses on a younger version of Winston Scott (Colin Woodell) and his brother Frankie (Ben Robson). Much like the feature films that inspired it, the exciting action and the fine collection of actors add yet another level to “The Continental: From the World of John Wick.” The cast includes Mishel Prada, Hubert Point-Du Jour, Nhung Kate, Jessica Allain, and many more. And in case you are wondering who is running the joint, that would be Mel Gibson as Cormac.
Last week, JoBlo had the honor of being invited to check into The Continental. Technically, it took place at The Hollywood Roosevelt, but let’s not let that get in the way. As I made my way into the hotel, I found myself impressed with the detail of the event itself. As a massive John Wick fan, it certainly made me smile while I went to the concierge desk. Checked in and ready for action, it was time to see what Peacock and the folks behind the latest series had planned for the afternoon.
First up, the journalists in attendance collected in groups where we could get an immersive behind-the-scenes look at the series. We stepped into a detailed theatre set up and met the Continental “concierges” ready to send us on our scheduled adventure. After all, we had plenty to experience as we looked at the costumes used in the series. We also got up close with the fight choreography. And we had an earful of the sound mixing. In addition, we heard from the series director, Albert Hughes, and producers. Basil Iwanyk and Erica Lee. It was a terrific afternoon stepping into the action and getting a taste of what it took to create this epic three-night Peacock event.
After the four presentations, we spoke with the presenters for round table interviews. The first included Sarah Arthur, Costume Designer, and Luke Gibleon, Sound Supervisor. Next up, we had Albert Hughes, director and executive producer. Production designer Drew Boughton and action director Larnell Stovall discussed the approach to the fight choreography. And finally, we spoke with executive producers Basil Iwanyk and Erica Lee. It was a fast and fun afternoon that only whet my appetite for even more goodness from the John Wick universe.
Drew Boughton opened up about some of the production challenges:
Because we’re a 70’s American story, but we were in Hungary so that in Central Europe, there’s not a lot of American furniture. One of the things we ended up having to just ship a whole lot of stuff. And that takes months of us to go through customs. So it’s actually like a big logistical thing to the question of the difference between soundstage and , say, a location. When we’re on a soundstage, we build pretty much everything. But, the set decorator would go and shop that and buy that. But in our case, sometimes to get really good 70’s stuff, it’s like you’re shipping it from Los Angeles all the way to Hungary or shipping from New York. And the irony being that we’re supposed to be making New York, but we have to bring New York to Hungary.
Larnell Stovall on coordinating stunt design with production design.
Sure. Let’s start with the stairwell sequence. That was already a built stairwell. But when he comes into play, it’s saying, hey, can I put a head through this window that’s not here? Then he builds a window. I need him to get out of here. But how do I make people with guns avoid things? Fire extinguisher. I can use that as a distraction or something to make people miss because we try to keep a grounded element of reality. And yeah, I either add stuff or I look at the set and go, how can I destroy this?
Boughton joined in on the subject of action and production design, working in tandem.
How can you destroy and make it organic? Yeah, it’s like my job is to have fun with well, how can I help them destroy it or give them things to destroy? And the other one is something that you don’t see a lot, which is invisible padding. And it’s sort of like, well, this part of the staircase needs to be rubberized. This wall needs to look like concrete but actually has to have rubber in it. So we do all these things. There’s actually just a tremendous amount of stuff. Like, for example, I’ve made lots of tabletops, but it was actually rubberized.
When it came to sound design, Luke Gibleon offered up an engaging presentation before the sit-down interview. During that time, he discussed experimenting with sound for The Continental and dealing with Hughes style.
What I really loved about the Continental, which is different than the world, like John Wick movies, is actually Albert’s take on it. He has his own style. It’s very edgy and very kind of overemphasizes things and makes it kind of really larger than life in even more comic book-like, in a way. And he also likes to really ramp out of things or hits cuts hard. He does these cut to blacks, which we don’t see in John Wick, but when you cut to black, then he’s like, okay, it sounds job to now tell this whole story. And you see that in the car chase.
As far as costumes adding to the experience, Sarah Arthur discussed the similarities between Winston and Cormac’s style.
The cloth that I used for Cormac and Winston were very different. I mean, Cormac very sort of stylized pinstripe suit, whereas Winston’s were much softer and a wool, stiff wool cloth, whearas Winston was the cashmere and softer colors. But I think the similarities your thinking, talking maybe, is the Cravath, the ascots that they both wear, that it was something that Albert wanted. So it wasn’t meant for them to mimic each other, necessarily, but for me, they were very different.
When it came to bringing this intricate world to the small screen, executive producers Basil Iwanyk and Erica Lee had this to say.
It’s terrifying. The big proof of concept is will audiences embrace something in the work world that doesn’t have Keanu Reeves in it. So we knew when we needed to transition into television, it had to be such a specific idea, such a big idea, that you wouldn’t be asking those questions. And so John Wick was not like a preordained hit or franchise. So, like, the first movie you guys probably didn’t see in the theatre. You probably saw it afterwards. And then you’re like, all right, a lot of people did like it, but they discovered it. And then we’re like, okay, John Wick Chapter Two, we can’t kill another dog. We can’t kill a cat. People aren’t going to care. John Wick Two, okay, did pretty well. And then John Wick Chapter Three, we’re like, okay, let’s see if this is a temple. And it was. John Wick Three made this show.
As for series director, Albert Hughes (The Book of Eli, Menace II Society), he went on to answer a question about the focus on a more urban tale in The Continental.
Well, it’s interesting. You’re talking about the European influence on the Wick films. Right? I live in Europe. But I’m born biracial in Detroit, so I have that culture. I love exploitation films. I think every film is an exploitation film, by the way, and it’s a bad label for that period of time. I love the vamp, the opening credits. I don’t know if you got to that scene with the James Brown playing “Pays the Cost to Be the Boss?” It’s a riff on black exploitation. And my influences are black culture, and, of course, white culture. Because even black culture has to see that growing up and being influenced by the films that didn’t have minorities, life the Sergio movies and such.
But now it’s interesting because I’m in Europe and I see a lot of European films. So a lot of my technique is turned into a more European technique, even though it was classically trained in American technique, because European mindset is a little bit more free-flowing and not so closed down and weird and American. I’m fiery. Best of both worlds.
Hughes went on to discuss becoming a part of the John Wick universe and the kinds of pressure that entails.
I never felt [pressure]. I did feel like all respect due to Chad Stahelski and Keanu Reeves, and Basil and Erica, who do these movies because I love them. But I would never want to disrespect by copying. And that’s not who I am. And they didn’t hire me for that. Chad [gave his blessing] to do what inspires you.
On shooting on location.
Oh, it was amazing. I was shocked by that because I live and worked in Europe and I live in Europe, right. In a neighboring country. Prague, Czech Republic And they both were once at one time part of the Austro Hungarian Empire, they both were influenced or under the spell or control of communism and post communism, I was shocked that I met a crew which, no matter what country I’ve been in, there’s always a weak link, and you have to figure it out. That was so ambitious in smiling and running into fires. I’m like, I’ve never seen the Griffith. You give him a chance. Doesn’t have anything to do with happy motherfuckers named Matilda. Like, Jesus Christ. They’re fighters. There’s a spirit about them that I have never seen before. And Marvel and a bunch of other big movies have come, and they got the tax breaks, and they already had a rich history of cinema. Right? But they also have this chip on their shoulder that a biracial kid also has in the shoulder that a person from a small country has in their shoulders. Like, well, they’re underestimating me because I’m not in a big town.
I don’t live in Hollywood, and I don’t get that motherfucker. I’m to going prove this to them. And that’s the attitude. You guys think you know what’s best? Watch. So I was quite taken and enamored and shocked by it and touched by it. And I also think the benefit was they all knew about the IP. They all were WIC fans. And I keep on having to remind myself, like, Albert, they may have liked you. They didn’t like you that much. They love the John Wick world and they understand it. And they were really, I would say, ambitious. When you’re a small country or a small person or a minority, you have to be ambitious.
On creating strong female characters.
It’s a common theme in the movies I’ve had, where there’s strong females, but it’s all subconscious from my mother, who was a strong woman, hardcore feminist. But this had already been written, and I was quite taken with it didn’t come off cynical like it was some corporate meeting about checking boxes. Like, we need the Latin guy, the Mexican guy. Like Fast movies that have grown into that in a cool way because they’re appealing to different parts of the world. That’s a different kind of corporate reach. I like, like, oh, we want to reach Asia. F*ck this. No, it was already inherently in there. And then when you cast and you start seeing the edits kind of distill down, you’re, like, quite shocked by how many have seen the whole series. Okay, so you still haven’t seen it. There’s something going on in three that traditionally the men would take care of whatever business needs to be taken care of. If you look at what happens in three, the women take care of the business. The dirty work is done by all of them. Okay? A Dominican, Puerto Rican/Black woman and Vietnamese woman.
On the collected talent for this particular event.
This is what the fan base needs and wants. And he’s great, and they’re great at what they do. And it’s fun to watch them because they’re very military. It’s chaos, but it’s military. Right. Sarah Arthur, because she’s just fantastic. She’s an artist in that kind of costume world, which she shows me. She’s very clever, like a really good costume designer. A really good production designer will give you, like, here are the options, Albert. You have five options. ABCD. And they put four terrible options and one great one because they know they want you to pick that one. She’s not like that. She’s very collaborative, but she’s an artist. Drew is like, he’s the best production designer I’ve ever worked. Mean, he looks like Einstein with his hair. Right. I think it’s important because John Wick, even though it’s, like, a fun escapism, they celebrate the arts if you really look at it. It’s clothes, it’s costumes, it’s painting, it’s production design, it’s camera, it’s lighting, it’s an explosion, an exuberance of the arts, really. And I think that’s why, subtly, they get great reviews because there’s something going on there. Whether they are playing great respect, paying great respect to the art form of cinema and the art form of cinema now is the only one that exists that encompasses all the other arts.
Originally published at https://www.joblo.com/joblo-checks-in-for-an-early-look-at-the-continental/