The El Rey Network, Robert Rodriguez’s brainchild, will be premiering its second original series tonight. The Latin-American network will now have, in addition to Rodriguez’s series adaptation of From Dusk Till Dawn, Matador– a sleek spy-sports series. The show will follow special narcotics agent Tony Bravo, as he goes undercover as a soccer player in order to gain access to international crime rings.
“Tony ‘Matador’ Bravo (Gabriel Luna) is a professional soccer player for the LA Riot who comes to be known as much for his antics off the field as his moves on it. But what his fans and family don’t realize is that it’s all a coverâ€”in truth, he is a skilled covert operative executing missions for the CIA. Agent Bravo, nicknamed â€œMatadorâ€ after he takes out a top player known as ‘The Bull’ during tryouts for the team, finds himself suddenly thrust into a clandestine world. But, in balancing his dueling roles, he will be forced to confront the question of his true identityâ€¦ and it is this mission that may prove to be his most dangerous.”
The New York Times describes the tone of the series as being akin to glossy USA Network shows like Burn Notice and White Collar– where things can definitely get intense, but there’s also a sort of jokey undercurrent to the proceedings. Series creator, Roberto Orci says his inspiration for the series came from the real life tale of Moe Berg, who was able to parlay his fame as a sports celebrity to also do some spy work for the US government during World War II.
In a chat with IGN, Orci elaborated on this. “He was part of the team, and this baseball team would travel around the world. So he was contacted by the CIA as part of his travels to go in there in a hotel or whatever one night, and he’d sneak out and go take pictures of the installation,” he said. “So he was an athlete, a sports figure, who was also a spy. So when I heard that, I just thought, ‘I’m not a huge baseball fan, but…’ and that just kind of led to this idea — ‘Well, wow. What about a soccer player?’ Because that’s also international,” Orci revealed, of his thought process.
And, speaking of the access granted to celebrities, Orci elaborated on how Bravo’s assignment opens up doors. “Well, the team can travel, but also as he becomes more popular, he himself simply becomes a public figure. So he may be contracted to go do a commercial in Paris, and while there he’s invited to the big party with the French Embassy, with the mucky-mucks, and missions can come out of the access that only a famous person can have,” the writer says.
Orci says the series is also sort of a love letter to the sport of soccer, which he didn’t develop a passion for until recently. “[…]Part of the show is to get you to understand soccer and fall in love with it — because I wasn’t a soccer fan all my life, at all. It was a few years ago on a job, and one of the actors I was working with got me into soccer because he invited me to his house; he had a little party watching his team, and he starts explaining to me, ‘Yeah, well this is why that’s important.’ Suddenly, I understood, and I thought, “Oh, these guys are amazing athletes! Holy moly!,” he revealed.
Wearing a love for soccer on its sleeve, one would think, could really help the show- considering it’s premiering two days after the conclusion of an immensely popular World Cup tournament in Brazil.
The show includes a varied cast of known and unknown actors:
You’ve got Gabriel Luna (Tony Bravo) in his first starring TV role, as well as screen veterans Alfred Molina and Elizabeth PeÃ±a as series regulars. Other cast members include Nicky Whelan, Neil Hopkins, Tanc Sade, Louis Ozawa Changchien, Peter Gadiot, Daniel Messier, and Jude Ciccolella.
“Matador” premieres tonight on the El Rey Network at 9 PM ET/PT, and has all ready been green lit for a second season.