Filming on location — particularly a location as old and rich with historical and spiritual import as Jerusalem — brings many advantages to a show like USA's upcoming conspiracy thriller "Dig." But it also carries with it significant risks.
"Dig" stars Jason Isaacs and Anne Heche and producers Tim Kring ("Heroes") and Gideon Raff (creator of the Israeli series that inspired "Homeland," and deposed creator of FX's "Tyrant") came to press tour this morning eager to talk about their show and their excitement about getting to film it in Jerusalem, but they also had to acknowledge the complications that have resulted from the current wave of Israeli-Palestinian violence(*).
(*) The blog's No Politics rule goes into full effect on this subject.
"Dig" was already on a pre-planned hiatus after finishing its pilot episode, Raff explained, but for the time being, the show won't resume production until the conflict either subsides or until they can find a suitable alternate location. ("Tyrant," which is set in a fictional country but shot in Israel, has also shut down production for the moment.)
"This caught us off-guard, and we are assessing," Raff said. "Hopefully, everything will calm down and we will go back to what we planned. And if not, we'll sort it out. Jerusalem is a key part of our show. We wanted to shoot in Jerusalem because of the history it has... Putting a 'Da Vinci Code'-style historical and psychological thriller inside that city gives us a lot of possibilities."
Isaacs, who plays an FBI agent working out of the American embassy in Jerusalem who investigates the murder of an American citizen, talked about the advantages of filming in such a specific and old location.
During production of the pilot, as he would be driven from his very modern Tel Aviv hotel to the older parts of Jerusalem, "It's like driving through a rift backward in time," he said. "There's very many ways in which the job of acting is made easier. The idea is to imagine yourself as a character in this situation, and you're often looking at green screens and people holding clipboards. And now you're suddenly in a place that could not just be thousands of years ago, but you also see people who look like they could genuinely be part of this conspiracy."
Of course, that location also brings with it a long history of political and religious strife. What little we've been told about the "Dig" plot — including the birth of a pure red heifer, which would be required by Jewish tradition for the construction of a third Temple (and, in the process, possibly the destruction of Islam's holy Dome of the Rock) — suggests great potential to inflame the passions of those on any side of the Israeli/Palestinian divide.
"It is primarily a murder mystery set in Jerusalem," Kring insisted. "The idea is that as this murder mystery starts to unfold, it uncovers this deep, couple thousand year-old mystery."
Raff added, "It's also about a guy who's grief-stricken, and is looking for answers, and his life was shattered by a personal trauma, and he's looking for faith in the holiest place on earth."
"Our show doesn't take one position" on the conflict, Kring also said. "I will say there are enough villains in this to go around, and people will see whatever villainy they want to see."