“The Rookie” executive producer Alexi Hawley has mastered the art of the broadcast drama — but he’s a bit of a (pun intended) rookie in the streaming world. However, that’s about to change: Hawley is behind Netflix’s new CIA adventure “The Recruit,” which launches this Friday on the streamer.
The action series starring Noah Centineo is one of three high-profile titles Netflix is debuting in December to close out 2022, along with “The Witcher” prequel “Blood Origin” and “Emily in Paris” Season 3.
For Hawley, it’s his first significant foray into the world of streaming originals, as he’s been busy in recent years turning Nathan Fillion’s “The Rookie” into a hit, which then led to this season’s new Niecy Nash-fronted spinoff “The Rookie: Feds.” The two ABC shows are part of Hawley’s overall deal with Entertainment One (eOne).
Variety recently spoke with Hawley about how his years of broadcast storytelling have uniquely prepped him for streaming — and the recently launched ad-tier version of Netflix — as well as what makes “The Recruit” a very different kind of spy thriller. He also chats about the future of his eOne pact amid Hasbro’s exploration of a sale of the studio. (This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.)
In what ways have you prepared “The Recruit” to live on both the ad-free and new ad-tier version of Netflix?
I think it’s still in process over there on how that’s going to work, we haven’t had that official conversation. But I came into “The Recruit” breaking it in a five-act structure, because I feel like it forces you, as a writer and a storyteller, to turn the story. And we did it internally. We started “The Recruit” a couple of years ago so it’s very separate. But I have always felt like, as writers, it forces you to go, ‘if this was an act on a network television show, we would need a twist’ — so what is that twist? That keeps us going so, theoretically, that would give Netflix actual places to put ads in.
How did the way you filled your writers’ room for “The Recruit,” a YA-focused show, differ from bringing on writers for “The Rookie” or “The Rookie: Feds,” which are focused on an older audience?
You’re always looking for people and perspectives that you don’t have, no matter what you’re doing. And for me, it was a lot less necessary to find people who were experts in espionage or CIA. I mean, most shows would just jump to that. They’d put together a room that’s full of people who’ve written this kind of stuff before. But for me it’s much more interesting to put together a room with different perspectives. We ended up with a room with some younger writers, on purpose. Two of my writers, not on purpose, ended up being Lebanese American. Because that happened, I’m like, well let’s go to Beirut. Again, most genres treat “other” as “bad.” It’s always about the terrorists or that kind of stuff. And Beirut, as an example, has always been portrayed as this nightmare place where everybody is getting killed. So I felt like, because we have these two writers in the room who both have experiences there, how do we send two Americans there and not make it look like the traditional thing. In Episode 3, there is a part that is a “love letter” to Beirut in a monologue written by those writers… If I filled my room full of people who look like me, then all I get is the same perspective.
Due to the nature of a traditional broadcast season, network series tend to have a better idea of when they will know about cancellations/renewals than streaming shows. How are you preparing for the wait-and-see game with “The Recruit” at Netflix?
I don’t know, this a new leg of the journey for me. I’m not quite sure. What I can say is the amount of support that we’ve gotten from Netflix heading toward our premiere feels substantial. The trailer that they cut is phenomenal. The meetings that I’ve had about marketing and promotion and publicity, and what they’ve said to me shows they are very invested — which is rewarding. And all I can do is take that forward and my feeling of excitement I have about the show. If you look at the interest the trailer has generated over the last week, people are watching, people are talking about it. That’s great. I don’t know if I’ll know definitively for two or three or four weeks at the earliest. But we’re such a social media-heavy world that I think I’ll have a sense, but I don’t know. It’s new territory.
Landing a pre-holiday December premiere slot must have been a promising early sign.
Yes, that’s another moment where I felt completely like, “Oh yeah, they’re on board.” Because that’s not a slot you waste if you’re not feeling confident about a show.
What are your thoughts on how Hasbro’s potential sale of eOne will affect your shows produced by the studio, and your ongoing overall deal?
This is going to sound like a cop out, but focusing on that doesn’t necessarily get me anywhere at the moment. What I do know is that “The Rookie” and “Feds” are doing really well, so I don’t think that changes, no matter what happens. And “The Recruit,” hopefully, launches really well and we do a Season 2. I feel like Netflix is invested in that. So I’m in a pretty good position with three shows with eOne that feel like they have some legs to them, so that I’m not worried about my deal. But we’ll see. It can affect, obviously, the moving pieces of trying to set more stuff. I just don’t know, we’ll have to have it play out.