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We Chatted with the Folks Behind DIG, If You Like Very Expensive Religious-Thriller-Mystery TV

The USA Network’s latest, Dig, is their biggest bet to date. It’s also the most expensive series the network has done, ever. And, if you’ve been hip to the news cycle as of late, you may also know it recently had to leave its filming homestead of Israel due to this latest, devastating conflict between it and Gaza. But that won’t stop its creators from pushing forward. So we sat down with some of the cast and creators during the insanity that was San Diego Comic-Con this year to dive deeper into the event series.

Well — event series for now, at least. Though currently slated to be a mini-event-series, it seems as though Dig is taking a page out of the Under the Dome playbook as to its future: “We have more story to tell if the network or audience decide we deserve a few more [episodes],” explained the series’ creator (he of Homeland fame) Gideon Raff. “It’s an archeological thriller that takes place in Jerusalem,” so naturally there are plenty of stories to tell.

“Our history as humans is down there,” he explained. And he’s right. The Middle East itself is the birthplace of many religions and civilizations, yet only “5% of it has been excavated,” Raff said. So, naturally, there is still a lot of it we do not know — and that’s where filling in the gaps becomes great fun for them as storytellers.

So fun and rich with potential, in fact, the duo revealed at the panel that the series would also have 12-part (!) official prequel series to accompany it via the Wattpad app.

The series itself has a fairly simple-seeming premise, “It’s about an FBI agent who investigates the murder of an archeology and discovers a conspiracy 2,000 years in the making,” explained Raff. That agent, Peter Connolly (played by Jason Isaacs), “is dealing with grief [that] has blown his life apart,” explained director SJ Clarkson. So naturally, “everything he does is infused with a father’s grief.” Hmmm, sounds like prime breeding ground for a bit of emotional conflict, eh?

 

Within that world and with that sort of man at the front of it, the possibilities seem pretty endless. Particularly to Clarkson and writer Carol Barbee. To the latter, it is a world that’s “Rich … with a lot of different people and points of view,” leaving literally “a million stories” for the staff to choose from. Ultimately they went the more organic route, choosing to “open yourself to a new world, do the research, and let the story find you.”

Clarkson, whose credits are equal parts impressive and badass (she directed Life On Mars! And one particularly fabulous episode of Orange is the New Black, just to name a very, very, very few), found the layers and nuance in the story particularly captivating.

“The great thing about tackling a subject like this is that there are so many different perspectives and that’s the joy of doing my job,” she explained. “It’s all about interpretation and that’s what’s been fantastic about it. You can go as deep as you want with the religion or equally just look at it on the surface. It is a part of the storytelling but it’s not the defining part of it.”

Ultimately, it’s about “very different worlds colliding against each other,” said Clarkson.

But that doesn’t make it all completely foreign and alienating to viewers. In fact it makes it better! (Because, you know, differing viewpoints make for great drama). And, according to the series’ other creator, Tim Kring (he of Heroes fame), “It shares some similarities to the psychological, paranoid thrillers of the ’70s about the little guy who uncovers something he wasn’t supposed to find out. There are lots of things that are familiar in this unfamiliar setting.”

Now all of that sounds very exciting, doesn’t it? Though the question still begs: will the series still shine without its very old, very historic setting? “We are committed to continuing the show without losing the size and scope of it” now that they’ve had to leave Israel, explained Raff. “We hoped to shoot [there], but it was just too politically charged but we’re not going to compromise the show because of it.”

Adding to that, Kring explained, “It is amazing now what you can do with set extensions and CG.”

Dig stars Jason Isaacs, Anne Heche, Alison Sudol (yes, the lead singer of A Fine Frenzy), and David Costabile and will premiere on the USA Network sometime this fall. So, y’know, keep yer eyes peeled and such.

Are you intrigued by Dig? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

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