01x90 - Big Screen To Small Screen

Well, I loved the movie. The movie was fantastic and Bradley was so incredible.

Taking an idea like that and bringing it to television seemed like a no-brainer for us.

We had talked about it a lot, actually, once the movie had been successful, that there seems like such a potential for more story.

Craig: To adapt a popular movie for a weekly series is an interesting and fun challenge.

You have to put your finger on what really appealed to people about the movie and try to preserve that soul while bringing it into a structure that can support a weekly format.

Woman: We're rolling.

Man: Shall we take it from the top?

Yeah. Why not?

[LAUGHTER]

Aren't we at the top?

Jake: It's been really fun.

I think that was the joy of reading the script is to see where this timeline starts in succession with where the movie stops.

One really interesting thing about the film is Bradley Cooper's character.

He cared about people, he was a loving guy and had people's best interests in mind, but there was something nefarious.

There was a trickster element to that character.

We did look back a lot at the movie for touchstones, but we didn't really feel like we had to owe too much to the actual movie because, for one thing, Bradley Cooper gave us a lot of license and said, "Do what you need to do to make the show good and fun for Jake and the audience."

But also because we very quickly started feeling confident that the story that we were telling didn't do a disservice to the movie but hopefully added to it in a way that made the movie resonate more while also making the show better.

Every show, especially when it's coming from source material, needs to kind of find its own voice eventually, and so we starting launching from the world of the movie.

When Craig created Brian Finch, he created him almost as not Eddie Morra.

We got to have a lot more fun and I think because Brian is so different than Eddie, Limitless the TV show is so different than Limitless the movie.

Brian: My brother's medical school textbooks were still at my parents' place.

Nobody else could figure out what was wrong with my father. Why can't I?

Alex: The show kind of has everything.

There's a tremendous amount of action but a tremendous amount of heart.

It's a real character drama at its core.

I would say, like the movie, it's a hard thing to pin down.

It is dramatic, but it's also action-packed, and it also has a sort of a quirky side.

Excuse me, everyone, I'm robbing the place.

Sorry. Just try to stay calm.

You can hit the silent alarm now.

I think it is really sort of a fresh approach to an episodic of this kind of nature.

Bradley Cooper is an executive producer on Limitless.

What's this thing? And then bam. Yeah.

Craig: And it's a very unique thing to be able to make a television show with the biggest movie star in the world and we're thrilled to have the opportunity.

You wouldn't get to me until I say that.

He has so many great insights into how this NZT pill can affect a character, the physical properties of it and how enticing and how dangerous it is.

We'd been trying to figure out how the show could go on and have a life in a cyclical way.

There's mathematical equations we had to solve because there is this thing of this drug and we've already established the language of the TV show because of the movie.

We were lucky with the other collaborators to come up with an idea and, you know, see it to fruition.

It's about time you and me talked.

Even before we started developing it, we heard that Relativity, who did the movie, was thinking about shopping the rights to do a TV show.

And Craig Sweeny was someone who was also really interested in doing that as a show.

The network was very interested in the concept and asked me to think about it, and so I created the character of Brian and they said, "We like that."

Alex: Bradley and I go all the way back to Alias together.

We've worked together for a long time.

Getting to work as collaborative producers has been so great.

He contributed huge, huge ideas to I think what ultimately became the foundation of the show.

[COUGHS]

Do you know who I am?

Heather: Craig Sweeny and I were on a plane flying to New York, where we shot the pilot, and when we took off, we had no cast.

So we literally were drinking wine on the plane, "I don't know. Why are we even flying here?"

"We both have families. This is ridiculous."

So I think we closed Jake's deal on the plane and then were able to make an offer to Jennifer when we landed.

Jennifer: Jake is fantastic.

It's almost like when you hear him speak the lines, it's as if he's coming up with it on his own.

It's all very, very natural.

I'm not gonna take your gun. I know you'd get in trouble for that.

Alex: Jake has shown incredible range in his ability to play the guy who's just the down-and-out loser who realizes his life could have been something else but maybe he's not quite able to achieve it, to the guy who suddenly is more than he ever could have imagined.

That's a real range to be able to play both of those characters and yet find the heart and the continuity between both.

Don't move. Hands in the air.

It's really hard to find a female who is attractive and who you believe can carry a gun.

So when Jennifer wanted to do it, the only tricky thing was she was seven and a half months pregnant.

So we kept saying, for her sake even, "No, you're not gonna wanna run around on a set."

"It's like an action show with a gun." She really wanted to do it.

To Marc Webb's credit, you could watch that whole pilot and you would not know.

I mean, the way he shot her, the way he dressed her, it was pretty impressive.

Rebecca: Why did you ask us to bring Eli Whitford in for questioning?

What did you expect to find in his apartment?

Craig: The Naz character I wanted to have a sophistication, to have the suggestion of a life before she became a federal agent, and so when we learned that Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio was available and interested in the part, we did backflips and cartwheels because she is so naturally elegant and self-possessed.

She's fantastic and very commanding but also incredibly approachable in her character.

It's nice to have two strong female characters in a room together.

We reverse-engineered the compound.

The pictures on the right were taken a year into the study.

My God.

The program was called off after the first two fatalities.

They just... closed up shop?

Hill was someone who we'd been fans of for a long time.

He did CSl: New York, so obviously the network is all huge fans too.

And I remember, once we were in New York, Craig having me get on the phone and convince him and explain to him what he saw for that character, and Hill's just game for anything.

When you're doing a TV pilot, you get to set up a language for the show.

Part of this world had been created in a previous film, but we're developing a new kind of cinematic language.

It's very important, I think, at the beginning of that process to create a very firm, very specific foundation for who these people are.

I think my father was on NZT that night, and if I can figure out where it comes from, maybe I can figure out what happened to him.

Craig: New York City is an important part of Limitless to me, because no city is harder on you when you're down or better on you when you're up than New York City, and so I always wanted it to be where the show was set.

There's the scene in the movie where Eddie Morra's first taken NZT and he comes home and sees his dumpy apartment and he cleans it up and there's like 900 different versions of him.

And so we did a similar scene in the filing room, basically, you know, a rig set up to dolly across the entire room at the exact same speed take after take, and then they'd have me doing something different each time.

Again and again and again and again and again.

There's that dinner scene that in fact we did 36 costume changes and had to replicate what we were doing so that it has this thing of like time passing.

So we thought, "This is not a regular show. This is somewhat different."

If Brian's gonna take NZT anyway, then every time he takes it, he basically becomes the smartest person in the world.

That's a resource. Let's make it our resource.

You're talking about putting him to work?

I just remember Craig Sweeny's face when I said, "Well, after the pilot, what can happen?"

He said, "Oh, anything could happen" and his eyes just lit up.

Brian: Those two guys? They're my official babysitters.

They've got names, I think. I just call them Mike and Ike.

Ike and Mike were certainly writer favorites and became fan favorites, it seemed.

Craig: When we conceived of the characters of Mike and Ike, we said there would be these two guys who were following Brian Finch around.

They're his bodyguards, he's not sure how he feels about them, and so he just calls them Mike and Ike.

We knew that we were going to strategically withhold their names from the audience.

Oh, damn. [BLEEP] Look.

The less we told the audience, the more curious they got about both Mike and Ike.

I'm not sure who got more Twitter love, Mike and Ike or Brian's sweater maybe.

Just another shift at the genius factory, boys.


Mike is strictly against the use of drugs.

I remember we auditioned with some scenes that probably were omitted later on, but one of his criteria is that he doesn't believe in medication.

Like he had a football injury in college and they gave him oxycodone and he refused to take it, and I think that was one reason why they hired him to be the pill handler because he has no inclination to do drugs at all.

I'm sorry. Uh...

Brian...

Oh, my God. Oh, my God!

Rachel: Calm down, OK?

Oh, my God!

You're totally overreacting.

I don't think we really knew where the roles were gonna go.

And you know what, if this is becoming a thing, you call him Ike.

Every twist, every rounding of a corner has been a lot of fun.

My name's Sands.

Just Sands, huh? No first name or?

We meet Sands in 103 and we sense that he's not to be trifled with.

We looked like we we're going down a certain road and then I appear, on behalf of Mr Morra, to explain that maybe we're not going down that road.

When I give you an assignment, you will do it exactly the way I tell you to.

Otherwise I will take steps to ensure that you do it correctly the next time.

It's been fun, actually, because a lot of the scenes I did with Jake are quite intense and very assertive.

There is no one you call family or friends who I can't touch.

He doesn't smile too much, which means I can do all that sort of... acting thing we do, you know what I mean?

Is everything OK here, guys?

Of course. Come, sit. We're just getting to know your new girlfriend.

When we meet her, she's playing Piper on NZT and so she is fully kind of zoned in, very similar in the way that Eddie is, on a different plane.

She is kind of a vision of what could become of Brian.

Over a long enough time period is he gonna become a killer?

If Morra ever finds out that you are still alive, then everything that means anything to me is gone.

They're the only people they know who can really connect to the experience of being on it.

Brian: Basically, that all took a week, in between all the, uh, you know...

Let's just say it was a very full week.

Yeah, and they get along, you know, so, yeah, there's the camaraderie there, definitely.

Where are you going?

I can't just leave. Your mom made meatloaf.

These heroes and heroines are taken out of their lives, right?

They just have romance and work. But this has a different thing.

This has all the mess of a family as well that complicates his life.

Ten dollars? That's what you think I'm worth?

Dad, just take it. Then you'll be my lawyer and then we can talk.

First they told me he was sort of a working-class guy.

I was working class and then all of a sudden I'm a lawyer.

So that's interesting.

We will see them in court.

We will depose every last one of them and make them admit that they are running a secret medical experiment on a scared kid who actually hasn't hurt anyone.

OK, whoa, whoa, whoa.

Series are great that way, you know, if you have writers who are creative and gifted and understand the music and the rhythm of the story and the actors playing the characters.

You ran like a rabbit and now you're gonna die like a snake.

Why would I say that? That doesn't even make sense.

The show is a lot more funny and fun than the pilot, which has moments of funniness but is actually much more kind of tense and thrillery.

Episode three was our big shift into what the show is gonna actually be going forward.

Throw him to the piranhas.

No! No!

Marco Ramos never fed anyone to piranhas.

I don't think any of us knew when we started in the pilot that the show was gonna go off in the manner that it has, successfully and happily and with such imagination.

You want a what?

I want a headquarters. And it should say that on the glass outside.

"Headquarters!" With an exclamation point.

That was the first time where I was like, "Man, if we can make this work, that might be pretty cool," but I didn't know.

Sometimes you read it and you're like, "People might hate this."

It was as far off the rails as we'd been in that point.

You ready?

I better get a promotion for this.

It was kind of like the first really wacky jump in our world and it came out so well cos we all just said, "OK, let's all take the leap. Let's go."

Did you guys know the resort you sent me to was one of those Club Bacchanal places?

You know, clothing optional?

It was just so much fun to work within a large cast specifically for that episode.

You're walking a very brave path, my friend. Stick with it.

Anything we can do to help?

Tell Mike I said he can go...

OK.

Acting out all those different kind of movie trailers and scenarios, that was so much fun.

We are dealing with an engineered virus. That's right, a second one.

Our only chance is to find patient zero within 24 hours.

All: Break!

The comedy worked out really well.

And we should stay ready, because as soon as James gets out of deprogramming, the world might call on us aga...

Um...

Mm-hm?

Craig wrote a lot of really great jokes that gives us the eponymous headquarters!

We actually keep a sticky note with an exclamation point outside of our writers' room, an homage to that episode.

Because the show goes in such oddball directions sometimes, if I don't stay the course on telling the truth and keep some sort of accountability to the CJC and the FBI

and what our main function is, then I think we run the risk of losing our credibility.

Jake: He has to make more and more morally questionable decisions.

I think that's kind of the wrestle with trying to hold on to your humanity when you're taking NZT.

Since Brian has committed to holding on and salvaging his relationships with his family, with people around him, it's ended up causing a lot of pain and discomfort in his life.

We knew there was gonna be a procedural aspect and we knew that there were some heavier parts to the show.

The whole show has surprised me.

I thought it was going to be much more standard procedural, you'd begin a story and by the end of it, it's over.

Was I surprised Finch stayed out in the field? Of course not.

He probably heard the word "undercover" with that expression that means exclamation point.

Undercover.

It's evolved into this comedy/drama and you never know what's gonna happen week to week.

All right. Screw, marry, kill.

Um, Mike, Ike or... Taurus.

Remember, the bomb maker? Go.

There have been moments when I've thought, "Is this a frat party?"

"Is the whole thing just a giant kegger? What's going on?"

[YELLS] You chopped off my fingers!

So if I may coin a phrase... it's basically Arm-ageddon out there.

Oh, come on, guys, that's basic.

The season's been amazing.

I mean, Craig Sweeny is definitely one of the most talented writers we've been able to work with.

He's tried a lot of riskier things with the show which in lesser hands we'd be really nervous about, but when he walks you through what it's gonna be, we just are like, "You know what? We're all in."

He's been right.

It's been amazing. I'm really proud of it.

Both: Yeah!

We told the story we wanted to tell for a season about Brian becoming used to being on NZT.

I feel like we closed it in a way that feels satisfying, so I'm really happy with what we came up with.

You're still here?

Show's over. Go to bed.

Go.