Debuting on the Syfy this Monday, April 11th is Hunters, the newest genre series from executive producers Gale Anne Hurd and Natalie Chaidez that focuses on a highly classified government organization known as the Exo-Terrorism Unit (ETU), which tracks down and fights alien terrorists. The new series is based on Whitley Strieber’s acclaimed science fiction novel Alien Hunter and stars Nathan Phillips (Wolf Creek), Britne Oldford (American Horror Story), and Julian McMahon (Nip/Tuck).
Recently, Daily Dead sat down with Hurd, Chaidez and Oldford to discuss what fans can expect from Hunters, the challenges that came along with adapting the material for television, how Hunters reflects the current political landscape, and much more. Read on for our interview with the trio and be sure to check out Hunters when it premieres on Syfy on April 11th at 10:00pm EST / 9:00pm CST.
How did this project get developed from a novel into a full-fledged series?
Gale Anne Hurd: Well, it started with my long fascination and appreciation for Whitley Strieber's work. It was really a big influence on me as I was growing up and becoming a filmmaker. I don't know if you've ever seen Wolfen, the movie? It was based on his novel. Whitley's always been way ahead of his time as far as elevated genre goes, and Syfy optioned the book for me. Both Natalie and I are represented by UTA, and even though I was familiar with her work, I didn't really know her. But then she came onboard and I'll let her talk about that process.
Natalie Chaidez: I was a little starstruck, honestly, because this is Gale Anne Hurd. I was also a little daunted because the alien genre I felt was very familiar to audiences, especially TV audiences, already. We were potentially walking into the show knowing what you would see, and so I said, “I don't want to do that. I want to do a show that has a different iconography, that has a different mythology. I'm not going to do Roswell.” I wanted to create a different world and it took me a minute to get my head around it. And then I landed on the Hunters—these people are outsiders, they're terrorists. That's a big idea and it was three years of pushing it uphill.
Gale Anne Hurd: And now we're wrapped and the show is in the can.
You both came into this with a television background, but that also means you’re busy on other projects. How on earth do you both find the time to run existing shows and bring together another series that’s so ambitious?
Natalie Chaidez: You just find the time—you have to.
Gale Anne Hurd: And Natalie was in Australia almost the entire time we were in production, from summer until Christmas.
Natalie Chaidez: The project shot in Melbourne, Australia, so we were there for five months with the mostly Australian crew. It was very immersive.
Britne Oldford: Yeah, it was awesome. Getting off that flight and walking down the street in Australia, a place I've always wanted to visit, and then finding myself working there on a dream project was insane. As an actor it's really about the experiences and the people that I'm working with and this project is just so rich with that. Everyone involved was amazing and working with Natalie and Gale was phenomenal. People are in for a treat.
Britne, can you tell us a little about your character and how she fits into the Hunters universe?
Britne Oldford: I did as much training as I could for the character, because the role of Allison Regan was physically demanding, if not more so emotionally demanding, which was definitely challenging, too. She is one of the most valuable operatives of this place called the ETU, or the Exo-Terrorism Unit, which is an underground government task force. They're involved in hunting down terrorists, but we find that the terrorists are the Hunters. She herself is a Hunter working against her own kind in a way. That alone, starting off realizing that that was my initial trajectory, was incredibly exciting. It's so different. I'm a different person in my workspace.
So maneuvering around that as well as trying to figure out how Regan should accept her Hunter abilities and whatnot, I just thought that seemed like a really cool headspace to play around in.
I did some reading about the series, and seeing the socio-political landscape these days, I feel like there are going to be parallels that you can draw from Hunters to what's going on in the world today.
Gale Anne Hurd: That is very much what Natalie wanted to make sure that the project was infused with. And I have always believed that the best science fiction is an allegory for the problems and the issues the world is facing and right now, one of those is terrorism. How do we deal with it? How do we not become like those we are trying to protect ourselves from? How do you keep fear from allowing people to make bad decisions?
Natalie Chaidez: Also the ultimate fear, the scary thing, is right next to us. That's what we feel right now with kids that are going online and defending ISIS, that horror that we're living under right now, and just making that into an allegory, that the Hunters are actually inside of us. We're just living in a time of fear, so to be able to take that idea and address it head-on was a gift. We just went for it.
We don’t back off of anything, either; it's pretty heavy-hitting. Hopefully there's an element of distance, because the terrorists they're fighting aren't familiar—they’re from outer space and not from another country or culture. But that distance allows us to really take on these themes, and we did. There are cool sci-fi and horror elements to this, but it's also a thinking man's thriller, too.
What Britne brought to the character was incredible. I'm biracial; I'm part Mexican, part white and Britne's biracial as well. So it's just this sense of not knowing where you belong. Who do I fight for? Which side do I land on? There are some real life-or-death stakes here. And she [Britne] embodied it because it's something she lived with.
Britne, was that your perspective coming into this, did you identify with some aspects of this world because of your own experiences?
Britne Oldford: Definitely. I'm Canadian-American. I was born and raised in Toronto, Canada, and the one thing that I took with me—which is a very small thing—was the difference between how mixed people are perceived in Canada versus how mixed people are perceived in the United States. Here in the United States, a lot of the time if you are more than one culture, you're more so considered to be whatever that other part of you is and that was a very interesting road for me to walk. So I can definitely relate to Regan in a lot of ways.
I truly believe that Regan is trying to figure out where she belongs and really, everyone is trying to figure out where they belong. Whether you're gay or a different race or from a different country, it can be difficult to figure out your place.
We have a lot of genre shows these days, something both Gale and Natalie are familiar with, but you don't often see series that have a good number of females working behind the scenes or even being a primary focus of the story. Were you all conscious of that coming into this? If successful, Hunters could really make a mark and stand out.
Gale Anne Hurd: We certainly hope so.
Natalie Chaidez: Yeah, something I'm especially proud of is that I've been in the business 20 years and I've never worked with a female DP [director of photography]. Not because I didn’t want to, but because they’re not that easy to find. So I've not once had a female DP and for Hunters, we were able to hire a female DP, Bonnie Elliott.
Gale Anne Hurd: She is a genius. She's brilliant, and it was a little bit of a fight to get her on the show because she didn't have television experience, but who was going to say no? Actually, on the set one day, I realized that we had a fully female camera operating team. We had a female DP, a second assistant, and another. I literally teared up.
We're also, all three of us, real fans of science fiction and horror, and what’s cool is that finally the perception of “it's just for guys” is changing. The truth is a lot of us women have loved it since we could first read or go watch a movie or watch TV, and it's great to be able to continue to play in that world and do it with many other women who also appreciate this genre.
Natalie Chaidez: I've been doing this for years and years now, and I still feel like 90 percent of the people who do what I do are still guys. It very much is a male-dominated field and so whenever I see women, I'm always like, "Yes. See, we are out there."
“Premiering Monday, April 11th at 10pm ET/PT, HUNTERS follows Baltimore FBI agent Flynn Carroll (Nathan Phillips, “Wolf Creek”) whose wife suddenly and mysteriously goes missing. His search for her leads him to a highly-classified government organization – the Exo-Terrorism Unit (ETU) – who track and fight alien terrorists. Britne Oldford (“American Horror Story”) plays Regan, a valuable ETU operative keeping secrets of her own. The series also stars Julian McMahon (“Nip/Tuck”) as the dangerously unhinged terrorist, McCarthy.”