Nick Santora has been behind a long list of projects – from “Scorpion” to “Vegas” – where the protagonist could go on for multiple seasons. The writer/producer of the new Roku series “Most Dangerous Game: New York” didn’t have such a luxury.
The series looks at an international organization that stages games for the rich and bored where they hunt humans for sport. All the hunted must do is survive 24 hours. At the end of the first season, the character played by Liam Hemsworth won the game and effectively ended their role on the show.
Now that the second season is scheduled to be available starting March 10 on the streaming service, the only way to progress was to cast a new lead actor. David Castañeda takes over playing a failed boxer who out of desperation to save his sister becomes the new hunted.
Santora knew from the start this formula could work.
“When the story and idea first crossed my transom, I remember telling my agents that if this thing turns out right, it could be ‘Most Dangerous Game: Detroit.’ ‘Most Dangerous Game: New York.’ ‘Most Dangerous Game: Mexico City.’ ‘Most Dangerous Game: Prague,” Santora says. “I did see that from the beginning that you could go anywhere.”
While Hemsworth and Castañeda are very different, they both brought some similarities to the role. It was necessary for the hunters to have enough physical ability to survive the unrelenting attacks. They are also similar in that they have a big enough motivation to make them agree to the life-and-death game.
Santora wanted there to be some similarities while also being very different.
“Both characters are in very different places in their lives,” Santora says. “Liam’s character had it all at one point and lost it. David is a character who never really had it all except as a young child when his family was intact.
“When his parents passed away, it has just been a constant fight to take care of his little sister.”
Santora saw great similarities between his two leads in terms of acting. Both are intense preppers who want to get it right. He describes them both as being so nice that they are the kind of person with which everyone wants to work.
Castañeda started acting when he was 17. Since then his credits include “End of Watch,” “Sicario: Day of the Soldado,” “We Die Young,” “Switched at Birth” and “El Chicano.” He’s best known for playing Diego Hargreeves in “The Umbrella Academy.”
The role is one of the most physically challenging for Castañeda in his acting career.
“There was very little rest between days. I must have shot 20 days out of a 30-day shoot. We got it done very fast,” Castañeda says. “And, most of the stunts were just me whether it was fighting on the train or the water tank. To the lighthouse or the baseball field.
“It was very challenging but in the end, one of the best experiences I ever had.”
The locations for the chase go from the home of the New York Mets at Citi Field to the New York subway system. Complicating the chase is that each hunter brings a very serious weapon to the showdowns.
Castañeda finds a role that requires extreme physicality as a blessing when it comes to performing. It informs him of what he should be doing with his body without having to think. The only difficult part is because the production shot out of order, it was necessary for Castañeda to remember each day how his character had been injured at that point.
“This guy is walking in pain or oozing blood affects how I move,” Castañeda says.
“Most Dangerous Game: New York” is the latest series from Santora where the main character is on the run having been behind “Prison Break” and “The Fugitive.” He has a very simple explanation for his attraction to this theme.
“People like to watch those kinds of stories so it keeps me having a job,” Santora says. “I think people like to think ‘If I were in dire straits, how would I get out of this situation?
“Where would I run? Where would I hide? They start running the scenarios through their head. As long as people are watching, listening to, reading about those kinds of stories, I am more than happy to provide them because they are fun to create.”
It’s also a way to give a series extended life when it appears to have come to a natural end.
The cast of “Most Dangerous Game: New York” also includes Christoph Waltz, Anna Gunn, Ciara Bravo, Martina Ortiz Luis, and Aaron Poole.
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