Executive Producer of NBC’s ‘Taken’ Reveals His Own Particular Set of Skills
Executive producer Greg Plageman wants to show you the origins of CIA operative Bryan Mills.
It seems that Greg Plageman might have some very special skills.
As he spoke on the set of TV series Taken, a lamp mysteriously turned on, flickered for a bit, and then abruptly shut off.
Plageman has taken over as the executive producer of the action series as it enters its second season.
The narrative follows former Green Beret and CIA operative Bryan Mills who uses his “very particular set of skills” to complete rescue missions. Whether it’s the life of a loved one, a treasured possession or a dangerous international secret, Mills stops at nothing to get back what has been taken and punish those responsible. In 30 years, this character is destined to become the Bryan Mills feature in the Taken films.
Tasked with transitioning the elements of the films into a prequel television show, Plageman explained, “A lot of networks want to hedge their bets with [established product]. When a show from an [established product] is really good, like The Office or M*A*S*H, that show distinguishes itself with a new family of characters.”
In the first season of the series, Plageman felt that too many of the secondary characters were a bit too similar to Bryan Mills. “To me, he’s an interesting man with his very special set of skills and, more than anything, I want to understand what makes this guy so special.”
To accomplish this goal, Plageman decided to refocus the narrative a bit, because “It can’t be that someone is taken every week and it’s personal for Bryan Mills. You can’t make that show. It has to morph into something else. In the movies, each one was personal to him, which is unsustainable [in TV].”
In response to this, Plageman and his team decided to focus more on Mills’ ability to assist others in need. “Let’s see that guy who when thrust into a certain situation can take the mantle of someone else’s problems on and make that situation right for them.”
This is what Plageman calls the series’ “emotional stakeholder,” saying, “each week in the show we establish ‘Who is the person that [Bryan Mills] is trying to make things right for’ and ‘why do I care about this person.’ I think that’s the tricky aspect of this show but I think it’s one that we’re able to pull off.”
The series does contain a certain amount of ‘bad guy of the week’ storylines, admits Plageman, but he says that the episodes also feature some arcing storylines as well. “I love doing a show where you can tell a very satisfying close-ended story but I also like dribs and drabs of serialized elements.”
Given the presence of these serialized pieces, Plageman wants to reassure viewers that, “For the hardcore weekly watchers they can say, ‘I love where this story is taking me,’ and for the person who just drops in they can follow the storyline and it’s still very satisfying to watch.”
This season of the series starts out with Mills immediately in a tricky situation – trying to get out of a Mexican prison. Then the ensuing episodes showcase Mills and his team globe-trotting as they take on missions. “We’re in a totally different place every week,” explains Plageman. “One week we’re in Brussels, the next week we’re in North Korea and then it’s New York.”
He also admits that he doesn’t think it’s possible to make a show where national security is threatened every week, but Plageman says, “There are so many crazy things happening in the news. This isn’t Law & Order, but is should operate on a level where people are asking, ‘is that happening now,’ or, ‘is that possible,’ and the answer to those questions should always be yes. Otherwise, it just seems too far-fetched.”
Speaking about mixing current politics into the series, Plageman offered, “It’s hard because you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t. if you do, you’re making a political statement, and if you don’t, people [react to the fact that you’re ignoring it]. I don’t want the show to be political. I don’t want to come down on one side or the other. True, if you’re doing a show that has storylines that reflect current day eventually you’re going to bump into that so [we solve that by having] our characters have different points of view.”
Plageman likens Bryan Mills to a few other iconic characters, mentioning James Bond and Jason Bourne. “People love to watch them extemporize. Making due with what they have, they pull themselves out of tight situations in clever ways. There’s some of the same appeal here. Bryan Mills is an everyman and you never question this guy’s heart. He has a lot of empathy.”
Overall, Plageman thinks it might just be what Mills doesn’t have that viewers will find intriguing, “I like the industriousness of how he does things. He’s not some guy just randomly shooting people. I’d rather see the guy who doesn’t have a gun and how he gets out of things.”
With that, Plageman cast a glance at the lamp that sizzled to life for that brief moment a bit earlier. He didn’t say a word, but as he left the set, a slight hissing noise could be heard coming from that area. It was as if the lamp was standing down as Plageman left the room.
Maybe he doesn’t really possess a “very particular set of skills’ like Bryan Mills, but, at least when it comes to telling the story of Mills’ journey, Plageman does have the very special gift of illumination.
Taken airs Fridays at 9pm e/p on NBC.