The tagline for Robert Rodriguez’s El Rey network is “Ride with El Rey” and for freshman series Matador, it’s been a wild one. Matador, the second scripted series to hit the network and the first based on an original idea (From Dusk Til Dawn: The Series is based on the Rodriguez’s movie from the ’90s), featured an impressive pedigree from the start. Co-created by Roberto Orci, one of the most sought after and successful screen writers and producers working today, Matador also nabbed Emmy nominee and Tony winner Alfred Molina as Andrés Galan, the series’ prime antagonist. Couple that with Rodriguez himself directing the premiere episode and a second season green lit before the show hit television screens and you have a situation where expectations are high and people are excited.
I first joined Rodriguez and company on the set of the premiere episode and returned for the finale, also directed by Rodriguez, to catch up with the cast and crew to see how things have changed over the course of the season.
Sitting down with Roberto Orci is always a treat. He is one of the most enthusiastic and friendly people working in Hollywood and is especially passionate when it comes to Matador, a show that, as he explained, was a real labor of love five years in the making between him and his cousin and co-creator Andrew Orci. He elaborated on the experience of seeing the dream of Matador come to life by saying, “This is an idea that my cousin Andrew Orci, who is a co-creator, and I had maybe five years ago and we always had it as a graphic novel and so this is special in a way that, yes, I’ve been very lucky and I’ve had a lot of things that I’ve been able to work on, but this is an original idea that he and I thought of five years ago in his living room and we were just playing around. And so to have something that I came up with with a family member in a living room on a sunny day, just imagining it as a comic book and never imagining it could get to this level, and then suddenly being here of episode 13 of a season of this amazing show that can totally compete with any network show in terms of its scale and quality is different and special in a way that I couldn’t predict.”
Equally excited was network founder and director Robert Rodriguez. When I asked him how it’s been coming to the series on first episode and then returning a whole season later for the finale, Rodriguez smiled and said, “It was great, I told them I wanted to come back for the season finale but it crept up on us so quick! I’ve been enjoying watching the show and I had to binge watch it before I came to direct it and I was like, ‘Wow!’ It’s really good stuff, they did a great job. I really enjoyed the show, the actors, the characters. I’ve never done television before and I always wanted to be a part of the casting process on a show because you have to live with those characters for so long and I’ve always had a pretty good eye for casting, so I thought I’d love to see that in the television world.”
Speaking of casting, how has leading man and breakout star Gabriel Luna found the experience of Matador? For him, it all comes down to them being a literal and metaphorical team, much like the fictional LA Riot from the series. Said Luna, “The respect that we show each other and the hard work that we do has definitely translated throughout now that the show has started to air we’re started to see it in the product. So 13 episodes later we’re still handling it the way that we did on day one and that turned out worked very well.”
Rodriguez continued to sing the praises of Luna and the entire cast of Matador, telling Nerdist, “We’ve got a great cast… especially for television, you’re basing it off of really one script, which in the movie world would be as if you only had ten pages of the script and you go, OK, I’m going to cast the whole part based on this. You have to follow a lot of instinct on that and I think we picked really great actors. They really grew into the parts, even they didn’t know what the parts were going to be because they got written as we shot so I’m really happy with that and coming back and getting to finish out the season. But, you know, it certainly feels more like the beginning than the end because you know it’s coming back for another season, it leaves you with a lot of questions you want answered and certainly whets your appetite for more.”
The season finale of Matador, created by Roberto Orci, Dan Dworkin, Jay Beattie and Andrew Orci and starring Gabriel Luna, Alfred Molina, Nicky Whelan, Tanc Sade and Neil Hopkins, airs on the El Rey Network Tuesday, October 7, and is directed by network founder Robert Rodriguez.