Creators of new CIA show 'Chaos' say it's not a James Bond parody
"Vancouver," Eric Close said. "We're in Vancouver, British Columbia, where it's sunny every day of the year. You can tell from our tans." Close is one of the lead actors in Chaos, a new comedic drama -or "dramedy," as it's known in showbusiness argot -about a rogue group of covert CIA operatives determined to make the world safe for life, liberty and the pursuit of U.S. happiness - reports the Times Colonist
The pilot episode of Chaos is set partly in the Sahara desert, as directed by X-Men: The Last Stand filmmaker Brett Ratner. So, naturally, the producers decided to base Chaos in Vancouver.
"Well, thank God it's not Toronto," Close said. Clearly, he knows how to play to the hometown crowd.
The Sahara scenes were filmed near Simi Valley, in Los Angeles' Ventura County, and the desert town of Baker, in California's San Bernardino County, near the Nevada border. But why spoil the beauty of a thing with mere details?
Fact is, Vancouver was chosen because Chaos' stories will move around the world from week-toweek, from Moscow and St. Petersburg -that's Russia, not Florida -to Vienna, Rome and Amsterdam.
"It is beautiful in Vancouver, let's face it," Close said. "I mean, you have the ocean. There's mountains."
On those rare days one can see them, that is -but again, why spoil the beauty of a thing with mere details?
"Yes, there is a lot of rain," Close continued. "And the random snowstorm comes out of nowhere at times. But it is pretty."
Vancouver's setting provides a suitable backdrop for places the CIA actually does go, added Close's colleague, Tim Blake Nelson, who plays what Chaos' program notes describe as "a 12-year veteran of the agency with an understated demeanour and the ability to transform into a 'human weapon.' "
Recent technological advances in computer-generated imagery, or CGI, has helped immeasurably, according to Chaos' co-creator and executive producer Tom Spezialy.
"We're able to take bits of Vancouver and make them look like pretty much any part of the world," Spezialy said.
So far, Chaos has filmed all over Vancouver, filling in for Hong Kong, Seoul and Pyongyang, among other locales.
"The show is hopefully selling adventure as much as anything else," Spezialy said. "You don't go to some warehouse in a distant land. You actually see part of that distant land. So far, we've been able to do that. That's the plan, anyway."
Close's character is a psychologist-turned-CIA-operative, a borderline genius who's motivated "by pure paranoia." He has been put in charge of a clandestine unit called the Office of Disruptive Services (ODS). Any similarity between ODS and OCD, whether stated or implied, may be purely -intentional.
Chaos also stars Manchester, U.K.-born James Murray as a disgraced former MI6 operative banished from the U.K.; Six Feet Under undertaker Freddy Rodriguez as a neophyte planted in the group as a mole by his supervisors, and veteran character actor Kurtwood Smith (That '70s Show) as the CIA's deputy director, "a calculating mastermind" who constantly sees conspiracies.
Spezialy got the idea for Chaos while reading a supposed tell-all book about CIA operations, written by a self-proclaimed former covert agent.
"On the dust cover it said of the CIA: 'They spent a lot of money, killed a lot of people, accomplished very little,' " Spezialy said. "And I thought, well, that's probably more accurate than most representations of the CIA.
"I started doing research and stumbled across the bureaucracy of it all, 17,000 spies, all in one facility -which got me thinking, well, they probably spy on each other a lot. I read that there are something like three million people with top secret clearance in [the U.S.]. That means it's probably more like six million, because of husbands and wives, and nine million, because of hairdressers. So you feel like there are no secrets -just confusion and bureaucracy.
"I just combined that with The Four Musketeers, and ended up with this."
Ratner, director of Red Dragon and the Rush Hour films, took one look at the spec script and signed on. Chaos appealed to his sense and sensibility, and his own interpretation of "chaos theory," as it applies to international relations, world affairs and what the espionage community refers to as "tradecraft."
"It's not a parody," Spezialy insisted. "We're used to seeing field operatives in movies and TV shows as being surrounded by a lot of fancy technology and gizmos and James Bond cars. In reality, they have very little. These are guys who travel the world and function on their wits and ability to adapt and improvise," he said.
"The drama of our show is that our guys are constantly thrown into challenging and compromising positions. And, as an audience, we're supposed to enjoy watching them figure out how to get out. There are supposed to be real stakes. Is it funny? I hope it's funny. I hope it's fun, too, like The Four Musketeers."
Close said he's having a lot of fun making Chaos.
"The bureaucracy, all the confusion over everything that's going on -that motivates our characters to go and act, and deal with the consequences later. We see a threat to our national security and these guys just go for it and deal with the deputy director's wrath later."
Chaos premiÃ¨res at 8 p.m. Friday on CBS and Global.
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