The secret agent genre is back with a variety of shows about spies and international espionage, which have been revealed at the summer press tour for the Television Critics Association currently at the Beverly Hilton.
Among the collection for this fall is the new BBC America series The Game. It will focus on the Cold War of the past, but the new El Rey Network just premiered its present day adrenaline-pumped spy thriller Matador to grab a contemporary audience.
It is sensational and sexy with its stars, production values and storytelling. The series follows the unlikely rise of Tony “Matador” Bravo (Gabriel Luna), a professional soccer player for the LA Riot team. He becomes 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 his soccer career is just a cover for the dashing spy. Agent Bravo is a skilled covert operative executing missions for the CIA, between scoring goals and women.
Bravo is nicknamed “Matador” after he takes out a tough player known as “The Bull” during open tryouts for the team. It’s a hot CIA babe, Agent Annie Mason (Nicky Whelan) who recruits Bravo and throws him into the clandestine world. She is his guide on his missions, with danger around every corner. Alfred Molina plays the badguy/owner of the LA Riot franchise.
The production team behind the show includes Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman (Hawaii 5-0, Sleepy Hollow, Star Trek Into Darkness), along with producer-director Robert Rodriguez, founder and chairman of the El Rey Network, who says he thinks spy stories are a cool angle to play with. “This guy, Matador, becomes such a huge professional soccer star, but that’s just his cover, and his family can’t know that he’s a spy. He can be in a death defying situation as an agent, and then suddenly he has to go play a game that night. As the star of the game he gets access to people and can go anywhere. But you have to live an extremely double life. There’s conflict, and it’s sexy, and it’s cool. I think that’s why people love that spy genre so much.”
Gabriel Luna plays Tony Bravo, a hero for America today. Luna shows off his soccer skills in the fast paced game sequences, but admits he never played a lot as a kid. “I’m from Texas, so I played American football primarily, strong safety. I ran track, played basketball. When I went to college, I had to find a way of keeping fit that was a little less strenuous on my body, so it was soccer. Now I play with the guys on Sundays in the park. It’s a good way to keep your heart healthy.”
Luna says he’s been to a bunch of the LA Galaxy games, and reveals, “There’s a hooligan squad called the LA Riot Squad. So I think that’s been appropriated by the soccer community.”
Luna does not speak Spanish in the show and he finds that realistic. “I’m fifth generation Texan, and I remember my mother asking my grandmother about certain words to learn Spanish. And I was never really immersed in the language. Now I think that’s kind of funny. So this show is in English for this diverse generation. It appeals to everyone who likes sports, action, drama, and really cool stories about spies,” says the hunky actor.
With all the excitement surrounding the World Cup finals, it’s great timing for the entertaining and inclusive Matador on El Rey, which has already picked up the show for a second season.