61st Montecarlo Television Festival: Terminal List. In conversation with Taylor Kitsch, Antoine Fuqua, and David DiGilio.


Based on the novel by Jack Carr, Terminal List, is the new action-thriller series coming on Amazon Prime in 240 different countries on July 1st.

Lieutenant Commander James Reece‘s team is killed in a tragic ambush during his last combat deployment. When James (Chris Pratt) returns home, discovers that those closest to him have been murdered and finds himself at the heart of a conspiracy. At his side, there is Ben (Taylor Kitsch), … but who can he really rely on and who, instead, should he watch his back from?

We met actor Taylor Kitsch (Friday Night Lights, The Normal Heart, The Bang Bang Club, Grand Seduction,…), director Antoine Fuqua and executive producer and teleplay writer David DiGilio at the 61st Montecarlo Television Festival.
Antoine Fuqua started telling us what a challenge it was to shoot the opening scene: “As you can see, lighting a scene like that, it’s almost impossible because it’s supposed to take place in the dark. We had a great DP who found a way to light it without seeing it. We only had five days to do that. It was very windy and cold on the beach and the guys were really getting the water coming out of the water and they were being knocked all over the place. And, I think they did a great job, but very difficult to do.”
David DiGilio: “We actually filmed that at one of the most famous tanks in Hollywood, which is the Paramount studio 10th. We built a massive tunnel complex, flooded the tank, and then shot there for five nights in a row. And I think, you know, Antoine just made it a little modest because the work doesn’t only, um, it doesn’t finish once you’ve finished in those five days, I think the work that Antoine and the sound team did for that tunnel sequence was just as important as the work we did shooting it. The amount of ADR, every sound of every bullet,…those are things that are just as important as when you’re out there actually capturing it on film.”

What surely makes that opening so special is the authenticity of what is proposed. And this has been made possible by the work made with real Navy Seals on set. The idea came from Jared Shaw who plays Boozer. During prep, he called David DiGilio saying they were going to pull a lot of the dialogue out of the opening because it was better to cast real Navy Seals as members of the Alpha Platoon instead of actors to make the movement authentic. They knew that the only way for that to happen was using former special operators and actually put them on screen. At least three-quarters of the Alpha Platoon men you’ll see moving through those tunnels in the opening scene are former Navy Seals, the real inspiration of Terminal List.

Since Lone Survivor (2013, here our chat with director Peter Berg) on Operation RedWing, Taylor Kitsch has built a strong bond with Marcus Luttrell and the Navy Seals. On June 28th, Operation RedWing 17th remembrance day, Kitsch and Luttrell inaugurated the museum dedicated to LT. Michael P. Murphy (played by Kitsch in the movie) on the Great South Bay in West Sayville. In Montecarlo, we asked him how this connection affects his work on and off set when it comes to telling Navy Seals stories.
“I’m very flattered when I get an opportunity to serve these guys, no pun intended. Marcus is still a brother of mine. In ten days, I’m going to be with Mike Murphy’s father and Maureen, his mother, and John, his brother for the anniversary of the RedWing. That film and experience, telling their true story, has given back so much more than I ever thought. And with Terminal List, I was in talks about coming on and the guy who trained me for Lone Survivor, Ray a former Navy Seal, texted me. And he’s like, bring your ass to California. Let’s go, let’s go play. And so he was the military advisor on Terminal List. He is truly like a brother to me. So to have him in these fight sequences and these gunfights, I mean, it’s really all about authenticity with these sequences and he really was just championing all of us through this kind of stuff. In the pilot we see James Reece struggling with PTSD. I have a lot of good friends that are brothers more or less; they’re going through a lot as well, but I think, I think it’s just a matter of awareness of understanding. I mean, it’s a long road as well. I think this is a conversation that needs to happen time and time again, unfortunately. A lot of these guys are struggling, but there are places for them, for example, there’s a place in Florida where some of them go for three months a year to deal with the brain trauma and everything else that they are going through; so there are good places and I think it’s just a matter of awareness and actually taking action to it.”

But who is Ben, the character played by Canadian actor Taylor Kitsch?
“In the first two episodes, we see so little about Ben. I really wanted this to be more about Ben, this whole thing. Um, the beauty about this character is that it’s a slow burn, and that was a really fine line to walk; I assure you it pays off. Knowing where Ben goes, I can tell you that that little introduction is actually a big precursor and his journey was a great reason to come on board as well. Ben has all these amazing tattoos; we had a lot of chat about those. He is born and raised on the beach and this is a guy who of course served and is proud of it, but this is a guy that I feel you could walk by on the beach and not have a clue who he really is. And these tattoos obviously tell a story, but it was really just going into where he was from and the story he was about. I love that about him and just the difference between him and James Reese: two guys that had gone through training together, that are just completely different and those tattoos are part of Ben’s story. I think it was like four hours to make them; I didn’t love the four hours, but I liked the end result. The tattoo artist who created them is a real artist and David sent many iterations back to him. The Wolf tattoo that you’ll see on Ben’s chest, was the one we wanted to get like perfectly right because it is as much a part of the character, as anything that he puts on, wardrobe-wise. So we wanted to nail it immediately. We worked on them a lot too with Max Adams, who is a writer-producer on the show, but also a former army ranger and he really understood the type of tattoos that special operators will get. He helped craft the ultimate styling of those. This is Ben and I’m happy to have eight hours to develop the characters, that’s what makes TV projects special, having six-eight hours to develop characters.”

The first season we said, is eight episodes but Jack Carr is, to use David DiGilio‘s words, “an incredibly prolific author”. Carr is currently writing at the pace of one book per year, all New York Times best sellers. So, for DiGilio and Fuqua, would be “a perfect world to make one book per season”. But they added: “he is writing too fast though because it takes a lot longer for us to make a season of the show, so we have to catch up with them because book five just came out”.
What makes Terminal List even more extraordinary, is the work made on the script because it does the book a great deal of justice; a real team effort that sees Chris Pratt instrumental in developing it. The team behind Terminal List is aware of the importance of Jack Carr‘s book, they made sure to be true to that character and to the journey that he goes through. An eight-part movie more than an eight-episode series. Jack Carr was involved from the beginning as the team was working on the pilot script, David DiGilio and all the people involved made sure that every line and every action went through the eyes of either former seals or former special operators. Everything you see on the screen is a character choice and it’s built by people who actually know those characters. Obviously, they took some license as they adapted it from page to screen, like making it less of a political thriller and more of a psychological thriller. You’ll see in the first episode James Reece having trouble with his memory, something is going on in his head. Is there a conspiracy or is he crazy? When you start watching it or, I’m sure, binging it, just remember that it’s all there for a reason and that, after the second episode’s shocking ending, you’re going to see a man’s incredible journey. At first, you’ll see Reece as the main character of this kind of psychological thriller, as he is trying to understand what happened, then Terminal List becomes a revenge thriller, as he begins to build his list and act on it. “Answers or blood?” asks Ben, “Blood” replies James. And then you’ll find yourselves watching a conspiracy thriller, as he puts together the final pieces of what is actually going on. Just get ready to see Chris Pratt as you’ve never seen him.

Terminal List, Amazon Prime, July 1st


Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s