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Michael Bay on New Starz Series: ‘I Thought It Was a Pipe Dream’

The exec producer addressed his CES freeze-up during the premiere party for his first TV project, Starz's 'Black Sails'

Two days after freezing up onstage while promoting a new TV set at the Consumer Electronics Show, Michael Bay avoided public speaking while promoting his new TV show, “Black Sails.”

Bay walked the red carpet for the premiere of his executive produced-Starz pirate drama on Wednesday, but didn’t talk to press or address the audience assembled for a screening at Los Angeles’ Harmony Gold theater.

“We’re so way beyond that now,” Bay later said at the after party at Chateau Marmont regarding his CES walk-off.

Black Sails” marks the director-producer’s television debut. Like his larger-than-life action flicks, Bay said the “Treasure Island”-inspired series’ “production value is so much greater than most TV shows.”

“I thought it was pipe dream,” Bay said. “A lot of TV has come my way and I haven’t wanted to do it. … I’m thinking like, ‘This will never get made [laughs]. Let’s try it, but it will never get made.’ And then, all of a sudden, we’re sitting in a meeting and (Starz CEO Chris Albrecht) is sitting right across from me and we’re like, ‘We want to make it.’”

Unlike most network shows, Bay said Starz gave him and the series creators unrestricted control.

“It’s like when I do movies, they trust you and they’re like, ‘Here’s the keys to the kingdom, make it,’” he said.

Although the “Transformers” director wasn’t involved in the day-to-day operations because of his heavy workload, he was active in its pre-production.

“We brought in people that we knew, that we’ve trusted, we’ve worked with before, and then some of it is just go with God,” he said. “I don’t have to sit on set, but I’ve seen dailies, our set photos or actors. I was very involved in the casting.”

According to co-creator Jonathan E. Steinberg, Bay was also an asset in completing visual effects work during post-production.

“He was very involved early on in building the team, in building the look of the show, in helping us figure out how our world was going to be built, both literally in terms of the way the sets were designed and just in terms of the tone of it — a world that nobody really knows what it looks like, how we were going to do our version of it,” Steinberg said.

That world was created in Cape Town on a gigantic backlot built from scratch to stand in for the Bahamas outpost of New Providence Island, which the cast described as an amusement park and playground.

“This place doesn’t exist anywhere,” Steinberg said. “Even if you could shoot in the Bahamas, there’s nothing there that’s anywhere near surviving from this period so you’re building a world out of nothing, which is hard. You don’t want to shoot on the water so either you have to do that or you have to figure out a way to make it look like you’re doing that.”

The ship scenes were ultimately shot on two water tanks located on the Cape Town lot.

“We have these ginormous life-size ships that were built the way that they used to be built in the 1700s, a beach that we’ve made, reservoirs of water and an entire town,” star Jessica Parker Kennedy said.

To prepare for their gritty roles, which deviate from the romanticized versions of buccaneers usually depicted onscreen, the actors playing pirates had to endure grueling boot camp.

“It was absolute hell,” star Luke Arnold said. “Those first three weeks about a year ago now when we first went to Cape Town was one of the worst things that’s ever happened to me. It was just a mixture of heavy gym training and then all the fight training so it was just one thing after the other, day after day. I used to wake up in the middle of the night and count down the hours ‘til I had to be back in the gym.”

“Black Sails” premieres on Jan. 25. The cast and crew are currently filming the second season as the show was renewed before a single episode aired on Starz.

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