John Rogers knows a thing or two about rolling the dice. His previous wagers have paid off in hit movies such as the 2007’s Transformers and television shows such as TNT’s The Librarians.
But television critics and fans wonder if Rogers’ luck will hold as he introduces The Player, which he wrote and co-executive produces. NBC is betting the show, which debuts September 24, will net the same high ratings as the beloved James Spader action drama The Blacklist, which helped turn NBC’s prime time around with an average of 9.51 million viewers last season.
Rogers talks as if The Player is a sure thing, which it might well be. The show boasts the same creative team as The Blacklist, plus major star power in Wesley Snipes. And it combines traces of comedy with kick-ass action and a mysterious pulp fiction vibe—think The X-Files.
But The Player’s true ace-up-the-sleeve, says Rogers, is its Las Vegas setting.
“We are really taking advantage of the fact that Las Vegas is a city with a rich history. It’s a hub with a lot of visitors, a lot of transient people and a lot of people who have a deep history there,” Rogers says. “We are using the classic noir vibe that radiates off the Strip. But the show gives a very three-dimensional view of the city. There’s a reason that the conspiracy [portrayed in the show] set up shop here.”
The storyline revolves around Alex Kane (played by Philip Winchester), a former military operative turned security agent. He is drawn into a high-stakes game to stop some of the biggest crimes imaginable and, coincidentally, to avenge his wife’s death. Snipes plays Johnson, a pit boss, and British actor Charity Wakefield plays a dealer.
Vegas residents and aficionados will appreciate the locally filmed set pieces, such as when Winchester pursues an underwear-clad man down Fremont Street.
“When I saw that scene, I said, ‘Where did you get all of the extras?” Rogers says. “They told me those weren’t extras, just people on the street. Only in Vegas would people on the street [look on passively] as a guy in his underwear is chased by a guy with a gun.”
Rogers became familiar with the diversity of Vegas early in his career when he performed stand-up in a club near the Tropicana, and made sure that the city itself played a substantial role.
“In the second episode there’s an armored car heist, and a plane on a little air field in the desert,” Rogers says. “There are not a lot of cities that [provide that range] of sets, and it allows us to make every episode very different.”
The show’s settings, landmarks, and colloquialisms will make locals feel at home. And will some familiar Vegas faces make their way onto the show?
“We’re trying to bring local celebrities into it,” Rogers says. “As the show gets up and running, we’ll figure that out.”