TCA Tour, Jan. 2009: “The Beast”

You need to watch “The Beast” on Thursday night. Seriously, you really do. It’s awesome. If you’ve ever been a bit iffy about Patrick Swayze’s acting chops, you won’t be by the end of the first episode. Whether it’s because he felt an affinity for the part of an undercover FBI agent who may or may not be corrupt or because he knew he was sick and wanted to offer up the strongest possible final performance, I’ll say this for his work on the show: if it isn’t the best acting job he’s ever turned in, it’s damned close. I knew I wasn’t going to be able to score a proper one-on-one with him during his time at the TCA tour (though I did submit a series of questions to him via E-mail, which I’m still hoping to get answered), I was still very excited about the prospect of being able to see him at the panel for “The Beast” and maybe get the opportunity to ask him *a* question in person.

Of course, that opportunity didn’t present itself. As we sat in the ballroom, awaiting the beginning of the panel, Abbe Raven, President and CEO of A&E Television Networks, approached the podium and broke the disconcerting news that Swayze had checked himself into the hospital. From there, Bob DeBitetto, President of A&E Network, clarified the situation more specifically: Swayze had checked himself into the hospital this morning for observation after coming down with pneumonia. He did not make this decision, however, without making sure that certain announcements were made on his behalf.

“Patrick did want me to tell you that he is very sorry for being unable to attend this morning, but he plans to get back to promoting ‘The Beast’ as soon as he is back on his feet and feeling well again,” said DeBitetto. “Patrick also asked me to tell you that he is unbelievably proud of the work that he and the entire ‘Beast’ team have done, and he wanted you to have an opportunity to speak to the creative team behind this great show and his costar. He thanks everybody for all the outpouring of support that he has been receiving recently.”

While I’m sure I wasn’t the only one in the audience who immediately began to fear the worst and, indeed, wonder if Swayze…or perhaps his publicist…wasn’t being overly optimistic with the implication that he’d be back on his feet and feeling well again, it must be said that neither his co-stars nor the series’ producers seemed to have the slightest bit of hesitation in believing it.

In particular, Swayze’s co-star, Travis Fimmel, had nothing but praise to offer the experience of working with him. “It’s just been an absolute inspiration for me and, I’m sure, the other guys,” Fimmel said. “He’s an amazing guy. You can’t help but to respect him, and I can’t say enough good stuff about the guy. He’s an inspiration. He makes a little thing seem so not important.”

“As hard as it is to imagine, you forget about it when you’re working 12 hours a day and you’re on the set with him,” said co-creator Vincent Angell. “Usually, most of us would get tired before he would. So,
you know, when you’re going through the show, and then you remember and you think of what this man was going through to show up to work every day…? It was, as Travis said, inspiring. In light of the news today, it’s just, I think for him, a bump in the road. You know, as he said on ‘Barbara Walters,’ he had a little sniffle when we were shooting, and he missed a day of work. So I think it’s just a bump in the road, and we’re all wishing him well.”

Perhaps the most entertaining comment made during the panel was co-creator William Rotko’s admission that, although Swayze’s name had been brought up in discussions, they weren’t officially sold on him until after they made a point of screening…wait for it…“Point Break.” (I knew I wasn’t the only person who thought that was an awesome movie!)

“We saw that performance, the character’s name was Bodhi, and it was such a departure in that role,” said Rotko. “He was so wonderful in that, if you guys get a chance to see the movie again. He’s really fresh in that, and we thought, ‘Wow, this can kind of be going down that path for him.’ And I think that really appealed to him, and it appealed to us as well.”

If you’re wondering, the entire first season of “The Beast” – the pilot, plus 12 additional episodes – have all been completed, and there is a conclusion to the season. “There’s a serialized aspect, a thread that sort of runs through the first season that there is maybe a conclusion to it,” said Angell. “You have to watch.”

Executive producer and show runner John Romano, continued on the matter. “It’s not the kind of show like ‘CSI’ and ‘Law and Order,'” he clarified. “You don’t kill the beast by catching X bad guy. Yeah, we go after X bad guy, we catch him, but it’s still out there, and as you’ll see from the pilot…I don’t want to give too much away, but there’s a sense in which sometimes, when fighting the beast, the danger is you become the beast, and…has that happened with Barker? That question remains alive for us. It takes the turn at the end of the season. It doesn’t go away. Fighting evil always brings out the worst in you if you’re not careful. That problem remains.”

“The Beast” premieres on A&E on January 15th.


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