CANNES: TV Drama caught up with Leslie Greif and Roland Joffé, creator and director, respectively, of ITV Studios Global Entertainment’s ten-part epic series Texas Rising, ahead of the show’s World Premiere Screening at MIPTV in Cannes yesterday.
The series is a co-production between ITV Studios America and A+E Studios. It is set to make its U.S. debut on HISTORY in May, and ITV Studios Global Entertainment launched the show to the global market this week in Cannes, beginning with the World Premiere Screening last night that featured cast members Bill Paxton, Olivier Martinez and Ray Liotta in attendance.
Greif, founder and CEO of ITV Studios-owned Thinkfactory Media, said he was inspired to make the show, based on the Texas Revolution, because of his long interest in the state. “I created a show years ago called Walker, Texas Ranger. I love Texas. I love the whole feeling of being in Texas and the Texas Rangers.”
Greif, whose long list of credits includes Hatfields & McCoys, said he was also “looking for a story that is very familiar but completely unfamiliar. I started thinking about the Alamo. Everyone has heard about the Alamo, everybody knows what happened at the Alamo. They don’t realize that what happened wasn’t the end, it was the beginning. As I looked into the story of Texas, it really was about a people forging a nation, and that’s something that the world can relate to. The struggles we have, even through today—in the Ukraine or the Middle East, people are fighting for land.”
For Joffé, who started his career in television before going on to make such acclaimed feature films as The Killing Fields, Greif’s track record was a key element in attracting him to direct the HISTORY commission. “Leslie wanted to make something very visual and exciting and different, that’s why it’s the first show that’s being made and will be broadcast in widescreen. It’s a game changer. There’s also something in the story that I really liked. It’s a story about individuals. Leslie has written a real cowboy story. Cowboy stories are always about people facing moral dilemmas, learning who they are, fighting against the landscape and making something of themselves. That’s the heart of this story, people making something of themselves.”
With his origins in making 16mm films for television, Joffé is excited about the opportunities presented by advancements in television technology. “People have home theaters, they have much wider-screen televisions. They can have a cinematic experience [at home]. I think we’re leading the way in many ways. HISTORY channel has had the bravery to say, We want to make something fresh and visual and new.”
While it is airing on a channel known primarily for its factual output, Greif notes, “We’re not telling you that we’re doing a historical drama. We’re not telling you that we’re doing the story of Texas. We base it on historical facts and…we maintain the integrity of certain characters and events. We want to make sure the viewers feel what it was like to live in that time. I learned this from Kevin Costner: Don’t take a 20th century lens or point of view or philosophy or political analysis and apply it to what it was like to live in the 19th century. We wanted to tell a story about people, and we created fictional characters that were composites of different [real] people.”
The team also spent a lot of time being attentive to the details of the period. “We had to choreograph it. We had to make it thrilling and visual. We don’t have all the resources in the world, but we’ve got to make people feel like they’re at the battle.”