Fox can't wait to get Portland on the screen. Backstrom, the new darkly comic police procedural set in our rainy streets and starring Rainn Wilson of The Office fame, was originally slated for “Spring 2015.” But Fox announced that the show will now debut on Thursday, January 22, in the prime spot after American Idol. Which is to say, Fox really wants it to succeed.
Based on novels by Swedish author and criminologist Leif G. W. Persson (it seems the Pacific Northwest is becoming the go-to place for American adaptations of Scandinavian thrillers—see The Killing), Backstrom is executive-produced by Hart Hanson, who created Fox’s other crime comedy-drama, Bones. Wilson plays the titular character, a disgraced, alcoholic, self-destructive, cantankerous police officer who gets assigned to lead a newly created “Special Crimes Unit.” In other words, think Gregory House meets CSI meets Portlandia.
Of course, those following the show's development know that it’s actually filmed in Vancouver, BC gussied up as Portland, which must be the first time the Canadian Hollywood has played a smaller, cheaper Pacific Northwest city. Does this mean we’ve arrived, or just that we need to bump up those TV tax credits?
Writer Peter Holmstrom interviewed Hanson earlier this year. Scroll down to watch the trailer.
On the Town: How did you first become involved with Backstrom?
Hanson: The head of series development at the studio I work for, 20th Century Fox, sent me a photocopied translation of the Swedish book by Leif GW Persson entitled “He Who Kills the Dragon,” which featured Evert Backstrom. Thorn wanted to know if I thought there was a TV series in the book. I think it was on about page 20 I called him back and said, “Yes, there’s a great series in here.”
Do you want the series to be a direct adaptation of the books? Or will you be using the books as more of a jumping off point?
The books provide the main character and a kind of universe for the series. Of course we go through 22 plots a year so it’s tough to get story from the novels—besides which they are novel stories, not hour-long episodic stories. Most of the secondary characters are combinations of the great cast of characters Persson provides in his books.
What drew you, aesthetically or creatively, to set the series in Portland?
Tone is very, very important to all series. Portland provides everything I need. The size of the city is right. The preoccupations of Portland—art, style, coffee, education, environmental awareness—are all good for Backstrom. And weather. Lots of weather. And when someone said to me, “Portland is the most politically correct city in the country,” I figured that would be the ideal location for the most politically incorrect man in the world to work.
And yet you’re not filming in Portland!
We would have loved to shoot the series in Portland. Our star, Rainn Wilson, is a Seattle boy and his wife, the writer Holiday Reinhorn, is from Portland. The studio looked into Portland, and the fact is that the incentives to shoot in Vancouver were simply too big to ignore. I have the distinction of having three cities annoyed with me: Portland, because we’re set in Portland but shooting in Vancouver. LA, because they are losing production to other cities. And Vancouver because they’d love to play themselves in a series for once instead of pretending to be somewhere else.