Last Resort Q&A: Co-Creator Shawn Ryan On Island Negotiations, Scott Speedman In A Uniform

It’s one of the most thrilling freshman dramas on primetime television, but on Thursday evening, ABC’s “Last Resort” is going all-out in its bid for the Best New Show crown.

Kicking off at 8/7c on ABC, the brand new episode isn’t just suspenseful, it’s a full on nail-biter. And it’s not just down to the fire-powered theater surrounding the negotiating table on the island between the newly-arrived U.S. Secretary of Defense and USS Colorado Captain Marcus Chaplin (Andre Braugher) and his second in command — XO Sam Kendal (Scott Speedman).

There’s something fishy in the water too, and it will involve Lt. Grace Shepard (Daisy Betts) captaining the sub, along with some much needed help from Navy SEAL (and regular island bar dweller) James King (Daniel Lissing).

Show co-creator Shawn Ryan (“The Shield”) knows it’s a big episode for the series, and he Tweeted his enthusiasm for it last week, writing, “Really proud of [Thursday’s] #LastResort ep. I think it’s the best of what our show can be. Going to be pimping it hard over next 7 days.”

So, connected with the executive producer to find out more about Thursday’s gripping episode, what’s to come in the weeks ahead (like the President! Island romances between hot people!), and how fans can help keep the show (which hasn’t yet received a full order from ABC) going strong. How did you fit so much in this week’s episode? You cover a lot of ground!

Shawn Ryan: We do… If you have good acting and good directing you can get a lot in and get it in clearly, so we try to be super ambitious with these episodes. I always think that an hour of television time is a very precious thing and I don’t want to waste a minute of it.

Access: You finally have Scott Speedman in [a more formal Navy uniform] in this episode. Was this due to the excitement from the ladies early on in the season?

Shawn: We certainly know the appeal that Scott has with a huge fan base. Having said that, we try to be as realistic as we can, and in that case, they’re sitting down for formal negotiations and so it made sense. So it was a happy accident that he looks so good.

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Access: So we get Scott in uniform and Daniel Lissing (SEAL James King) can be seen in the episode without his shirt on.

Shawn: (Laughs) Well, once again that made sense. But yeah, we have an incredibly sexy cast no matter which direction you may lean and [Thursday] night provides some opportunities to show some of that off. But once again, I think it’s all in function of a tense, fun story line.

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Access: In this episode, the Secretary of Defense comes to the island. Does he really want to make a deal with Capt. Marcus or is he trying to evaluate the situation?

Shawn: I think he really wants to make a deal… I think they’d like the deal to be secret and I think they’d like to get the better end of the deal. It’s dangerous to have a nuclear submarine with 17 remaining nukes on it and someone whose stability you’re not certain of in charge of them. It’s not like these things can be shot down, so I think they would theoretically like to make a deal.

Access: Also important to this episode is what’s going on in the captain’s head. Which is more important to Marcus, the truth or his men?

Shawn: You’ve just put your finger on probably the pulse of this episode, because it is a really, really difficult question.

Access: There is some great character building for Andre in this episode set around that question. Is it easy to write for him because he is so good at delivering material, as exemplified by the pilot speech?

Shawn: Well, certainly you can give him almost anything and he’ll make it good, but our expectations for ourselves are higher and I think his expectations [of the writers] are higher, and in that sense, it’s harder. You want to write something that lives up to the quality of his acting, and that’s a very high bar. He’s one of the harder characters to write for because you want it to be great and you want it to be something that only someone like him could pull off and those kinds of speeches and those kinds of lines of dialogue don’t come easy.

WATCH: Andre Braugher & Scott Speedman Talk Moving To Hawaii For ABC’s Last Resort

Access: There’s a real show of strength across the board with the female characters in this week’s episode. How important is it to write them that way?

Shawn: It’s very important. Obviously, we have a show that has some strong male, military characters in it, but we don’t consider ourselves a military show and we have these women both on the sub and off the sub who we want to be the heroines of their own stories in many ways. So the stuff that’s happening in D.C. with Kylie (Autumn Reeser) and with Christine (Jessy Schram), we wanna see [the] strength and daring and intelligence of those characters. ABC has a lot of female viewers and I don’t think you’re gonna survive on the network without having strong female characters that viewers can plug into and root for and appreciate.

Access: Navy SEAL James has a unique role this episode. Is he your Han Solo?

Shawn: In some ways. I see the comparison. I think our Sam character is kind of too dark and complicated to be Luke Skywalker, so they’re both a little bit Han Solo in a way, in their own different ways… I think Han Solo had a lot of quips to make and everything. I’m not sure if anything ever landed too seriously on him. James is a little bit more haunted and in future episodes we’re going earn some things from his past that reveal how he ended up where he is today and what he’s been involved in.

Access: Speaking of what he’s been involved in — when are we going to learn more about that SEAL mission that went wrong?

Shawn: We’re getting some stuff along the way and then its Episode 9 that we really break open the lid and kind of show people what happened. That’s gonna air in December, I think.

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Access: And will we meet the President at some point?

Shawn: Yes.

Access: How soon?

Shawn: Within the first 13 [episodes].

Access: There is a lot of great chemistry on the island – Sophie and Sam, Tani and James, Grace and James, Pilar and Sam. Are you going to have multiple romances?

Shawn: Romance isn’t first on the menu, but it’s a nice dessert to get to, sometimes. We always talked about – ‘We’re not a war show, we’re the story of what happens to characters in the time of crisis and war.’ And in the same way that ‘Casablanca’ could tell a great romance and ‘Dr. Zhivago’ could and ‘Reds’ could, we want to be able to tell some great romances or some great romantic tragedies, where it doesn’t work out… So, in that regard, we’re gonna have some permutations, some of which you mentioned there, that we’re definitely going to hit over the long term, without a doubt.

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Access: Finally, we don’t have a full season pickup of ‘Last Resort’ yet. What can people do to help you out?

Shawn: We’re really proud of [Thursday] night’s episode, so for those people who are fans of the show, just convince a friend or two to watch. If you’re somebody who hasn’t seen the show before, I think [Thursday] night’s a great night to drop into it and see if it’s for you. It’s interesting. I worked on a show called ‘Terriers’ on FX that was kind of a ratings disaster and people didn’t watch, and in the last year, it’s really been discovered on Netflix and become very popular and I get all these messages on Twitter — ‘I just watched ‘Terriers’ on Netflix! I can’t believe they canceled it.’ Well, they canceled it because people like you didn’t watch it the first time it was on (laughs). I think this is a show that people, if they give [it] a chance, will really gravitate towards. So I’d say, ‘Give it a chance now, because there’s definitely a good chance that the show can succeed. The more people [that] watch, the more likely it’ll be to succeed and we can continue telling these stories. So if you watch, convince a friend to watch. If you haven’t watched, give it one shot. If you don’t like [Thursday] night’s episode, God bless you and go with God. But give it a shot. I think you’ll like it.’ That’s what I would say to those people.

-- Jolie Lash

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