Still of Dougray Scott and Priyanka Chopra in 'Quantico.' Photo by Guy D'Alema/ABC
Still of Dougray Scott and Priyanka Chopra in ‘Quantico.’ Photo by Guy D’Alema/ABC

“Blood & Oil,” a serialized drama inspired by the North Dakota oil boom, will premiere at 9 p.m. Sunday on ABC, followed at 10 p.m. by the debut of “Quantico,” an ensemble drama about a diverse group of FBI recruits.

“Blood & Oil” stars “Gossip Girl” alumnus Chace Crawford and Rebecca Rittenhouse as a young married couple who move from a small town in Florida to North Dakota to attempt to capitalize on the oil boom.

Co-creator Josh Pate described “Blood & Oil” as a “classic American epic with Don Johnson,” who portrays an oil baron.

Johnson is also an executive producer and has been involved with “set design and budgets and every aspect of the show,” according to executive producer Tony Krantz.

Johnson was also an executive producer for the 1996-2001 CBS police drama “Nash Bridges,” which he starred in, and the 1995 ABC action drama “The Marshal,” which he did not appear in.

“Blood & Oil” is the first television series for co-creator Rodes Fishburne, the author of the best-selling 2009 novel “Going to See the Elephant” about a 25-year-old who becomes San Francisco’s top newspaper reporter, thanks to the help of a mystic.

“This is the golden age of television, so I’m told, and if you ask any novelist, they’re interested in the golden age of anything because this is not the golden age of novels right now,” Fishburne said.

Fishburne said he was introduced to Pate by one his best friends, a classmate of Pate’s at the University of North Carolina.

“Josh and I traded ideas for a year trying to find something to work on together,” Fishburne said.

When Fishburne learned of the oil boom in North Dakota four years ago he called Pate, who had been a producer on ABC’s 2003-2004 version of “Dragnet,” the 2005-2006 NBC science fiction series “Surface” and the 2007- 2008 CBS paranormal romance drama “Moonlight.”

“What Josh and I both immediately chimed (in) on was we’ve never seen anything set in North Dakota,” Fishburne said last month at the Television Critics Association Summer Press Tour.

“We were excited about this new place where we could tell this old, classic tale of a speculative mania of a boom. The fact that it was happening in a setting that we hadn’t seen before was just even more exciting.”

Pate and Fishburne said they drove 14 hours from Pate’s home in Sun Valley, Idaho to Williston, N.D.

“We wanted to go and see it,” Pate said. “We slept in our cars. We couldn’t find a place at the inn. We just talked to people. This really came from real-world anthropology in going up there.”

Fishburne said he was struck by “the feeling of economic opportunity and hopefulness.”

“You see all 50 U.S. license plates within about 20 minutes of being in Williston and the feeling of ‘This is the American dream,”‘ said Fishburne, who has also written for The New York Times and The New Yorker.

“I had never seen anything like it in America. It really was unique and special and our creative instincts were very drawn to that.”

Each episode of “Quantico” will focus on a different aspect of the recruits’ training at the FBI Academy, along with flashbacks to their pasts and jumps to the future where FBI trainee Alex Parrish (Priyanka Chopra) is accused of masterminding the biggest attack on New York City since 9/11, creator Joshua Safran said.

Safran said the idea for “Quantico” “really just came to me.”

“I can’t even tell you exactly when,” said Safran, who had been an executive producer on “Gossip Girl” and for the second (and final) season of NBC’s 2012-13 Broadway musical drama “Smash.”

“I think I was on a plane because I remember getting on a plane and being like, ‘I think I have this idea.’ It was pretty much fully formed.”

The series was initially about a terrorist within the New York Police Department, because Safran was living in New York City on Sept. 11, 2001.

“But then I started doing more and more research and I realized I was really interested in the people who protect our country versus just the city,” Safran said.

“Quantico” has an “element of fun” and “a conversation to be had,” Safran told City News Service.

“Hopefully people will argue about who they think the terrorist is,” Safran said. “It’s open to a lot of interpretations. One of the things I love about television is I love being an active viewer and I really hope that this is something that people want to come to because they really want to figure it out.”

Chopra is a major movie star in her native India who was approached about two years ago by Keli Lee, the executive vice president, talent and casting, for the Disney ABC Television Group, to sign a holding deal which would lead to her being cast in a pilot.

The winner of the 2000 Miss World pageant described herself as “a huge fan of television shows, of American TV especially,” but “was a little skeptical because it’s a big commitment and I have a huge career back home and I still want to do that.”

“But I also want to break boundaries with what I do,” Chopra said.

ABC “offered me a really sweet deal,” Chopra said. She said she made only one request to ABC.

“I wanted to do a show which gave me the respect of being an actor instead of casting me for the color of my skin or what I looked like or where I came from because ever since I was a kid and I went to school in America I never saw anybody who looked like me on TV and this was an opportunity for me to change that,” Chopra said.

Chopra said she read 26 scripts before “Quantico,” which she said was her first choice “because it’s a really riveting show” and her character “is someone any actress around the world would want to play.”

“She could be Indian, she could be American, she could be English, she could be Czechoslovakian,” Chopra said. ‘The ethnicity doesn’t matter. She’s just a smart, sexy, intelligent girl who’s almost like a female James Bond.”

Safran said he was not familiar with Chopra before she gave what he described as “an incredible audition.”

“She had everything I was looking for,” Safran said. “I felt very lucky.”

 City News Service

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