Interview: Robert Rodriguez talks El Rey Network and From Dusk Till Dawn

Just when you thought Robert Rodriguez didn't have enough on his plate (the man always seems to be juggling at least two or three projects at the same time), he goes ahead and starts his own cable network, one where he oversees practically every last details. Not only that, he then creates a television show based on one of his most beloved films, FROM DUSK TILL DAWN. Of course, he ends up directing about half the show, because he's just that kind of multitasking wiz. (Let's not forget he was also working on SIN CITY: A DAME TO KILL FOR at this time.) But that's what makes him so unique in this industry; Rodriguez has always been something of a one-man band, a studio unto himself, so perhaps we shouldn't at all be surprised he started a network where he can basically just play all the movies and TV shows that he loved when he was young and continues to love. I mean, how cool does that sound?

As the El Rey Network gets off the ground and "From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series" about to premiere, I had the opportunity to chat (all too briefly) with Robert about his two new pet projects: how involved is he in the network and show, what is in store for both, and how much he can get away with.

I've been watching the channel a bit recently, and so far it has been very enjoyable. Congrats on it.

Oh, thanks man! We just started our programming, it's going to be so much fun.

How involved are you in the day-to-day programming of it?

I do everything but turn your TV on for you. (Laughs) I do all the programming that goes on, I do all the cutting, I hired the team that does all the promos. Everything that goes on I oversee, I'm constantly checking it out and make sure it's running right. It's a new network, it's a start-up, so you're doing everything, you know? I knew that's what it was going to be these last couple of years going into it, but it's been fun. I got a call from Quentin last week, he woke me up, and he said (in Quentin Tarantino voice) "Yeah I was looking on my cable guide to see what movies I could tape and I saw Starsky and Hutch was on, and I thought, what network is showing Starsky and Hutch - and it was your network!" I was like, yes I told you we were going to do these things, I talked to you about it a few years ago. He was like, "Yeah, but I never thought it would actually go on the air!"

I was watching "The X-Files" on El Rey the other day, which was very cool. Do you have to fight to get a show like that?

You go through what's available, what fits your brand. And we're going to really start carrying that to where you have original promos and IDs and discussions from the filmmakers who made those shows, because we're genuinely fans of those shows. We really want it to feel like curated content, like when you come to El Rey, you don't know what to expect. We want you to know that we're genuine fans and not just a bunch of network execs, people who love this stuff. I showed Quentin my movie list, probably about a year ago, and told him that those were all the movies I was thinking about getting and asked what he thought of it. I gave him a pen to cross out the ones not to get, and he said "Take Killer Klowns off of thereā€¦ No, you know what, leave that one on there, that's good. You know what, I love all these!" Just things we're fans of.

Are you going to have a day where you get Quentin or someone else do intros and program the schedule, like a guest programmer?

Yeah, we're going to have guest programmers, like the cool version of what Robert Osbourne does on TCM. Somebody that you know is really a fan of it and can give it context. A lot of that's going to start up in a couple of weeks.

"From Dusk Till Dawn" is sort of the cornerstone to all this, how long has that been in the works? Were you thinking about that before El Rey?

El Rey came first, I got the network a couple of years ago and was starting to put it together with the financing, and "From Dusk Till Dawn" always felt like one of the first shows we could do. It's a new network, probably not a good idea to launch a show no one's ever heard of on a network no one's heard of. (Laughs) So let's make one of these shows a known quantity, and "From Dusk Till Dawn" is a fan favorite, Quentin and I are still getting comments form people all the time who like it. And nobody can make it other than us because we control the rights. So Quentin gave me the rights to do it for El Rey, because it's a cool network were we have complete creative control with no network execs telling you, "You can do this, you can't do that." We thought that was the way to make it and to draw people into the network, and also to re-tell the story that Quentin had written. If the film is the short story, this is the novel. Really expanded, new characters, different trajectories for the characters and story lines, and really building up the mythology of the temple so that we can sustain this story for several seasons.

I haven't seen the show yet but I've seen several trailers, and it seems like some of it will be very reminiscent of the film and the rest of it appears to be brand new. So how important was it to balance the familiar aspects of it with the brand new stuff?

We came up with a whole new storyline, and it got us where we needed to go. If there was anything from the film that was really iconic to leave in there, we would. Everything you see in the trailer is sort of a direct comparison, but everything else when you come up to it, it changes or something else happens. There are still signposts in the first six episodes, everything around those are completely new characters and story lines. And the whole first season takes place from dusk till dawn, so it's a pretty jam-packed evening for these characters. We had to come up with a lot of stuff that's not in the film. And you still get to the bar, but different things happen there.

Did you write every episode?

I wrote the pilot script and I put together the writing room and got a showrunner who I really liked. The first script and of set the tone for how this would be done. And I worked with them on blocking out the stories and they'd go write them. They'd just crank out one crazy script after another and I'd love it, it was really cool. There were seven or eight people in a room and they'd block out the whole thing and assign the scripts; it's a cool process, I've never seen that process before. I ended up directing half the season so far, that's because the scripts kept coming in and I wanted to direct them all. I thought I'd just direct the first one and then someone else would take over, but I haven't been able to get myself off of it.

How much on this network, and "From Dusk Till Dawn" in particular, are you able to get away with in terms of sex and violence?

I think each network has their own guidelines, so we're still figuring that out ourselves. Right now, there aren't really any guidelines. I haven't written those yet. (Laughs) There's no reason to over-push the envelope, because we're just trying to be honest to the characters and the story. It's almost easier when you have the complete freedom to do whatever you want to do the right thing rather than the wrong thing. But we don't feel the need to push the boundaries just to push them, even though we have that option. I think if it works for the story, we can do it, otherwise we just keep it honest.

Do you see any of your other films making the transition to TV?

It's possible, but I think the next series is an original, the one I'm doing with Bob Orci. Because by then the network will be more established and we don't have to use that known title. And then that might be the case with the third series.

Cool man, well congrats again on the network and the show.

Appreciate it it, thanks!

The El Rey Network is currently on the air; you can check out more about it (including if you actually get the channel) right HERE. "From Dusk Till Dawn" premieres Tuesday, March 11th.

Extra Tidbit: Are you planning on watching "From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series"?

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