PASADENA — El Rey, the new cable channel chiefly aimed at English-speaking Spanish homes, is from the fertile mind of filmmaker Robert Rodriguez. The channel will reflect the kind of macho-flavored entertainment that Rodriguez has produced for movies.
Launched in December, El Rey features a heavy slate of action-oriented network shows such as "Dark Angel," "Starsky & Hutch" and "X-Files" mixed with grindhouse, horror and martial arts movies. Now, less than three months after the start of the channel, the first original series begins based on the 1996 Rodriguez film 'From Dusk Till Dawn."
Rodriguez was willing to put his film-making career on hold when he saw a need for such a cable channel.
"I thought this was an opportunity to build something that hadn't been done before, which was to create a mainstream network that also catered to the growing English-speaking Hispanic audience, because that's what I've been doing through my whole film career," Rodriguez says.
"You don't think of 'Desperado' or 'Sin City' or 'Spy Kids' as being Hispanic films, but they are. They're for everyone to enjoy. And I thought, first and foremost, that would be a worthwhile endeavor because nobody was doing it and there was a need for it."
Don't look for TV versions of "Machete" or "Desperado" anytime soon. Rodriguez wants the channel to be a place for other filmmakers to start TV shows. He also wants El Rey to be a place for young filmmakers, artists, writers and actors to share their ideas through a direct pipeline into people's homes.
Basing the channel's first original show on one of his films was an obvious choice for Rodriguez. "From Dusk Till Dawn" — the film that pitted George Clooney against a strip club full of vampires — remains a cult favorite. That's why he knows the new series arrives with automatic name recognition.
"It was one of the favorite movies that I did in the past with Quentin (Tarantino) that people still to this day come up to us and say, 'We watch 'Dusk Till Dawn' whenever it's on television. We love 'From Dusk Till Dawn.'
"And there was so much that I wanted to explore, actually, in that movie that I didn't get to because when I'd first gotten Quentin's script, it took place in this bar in Mexico. ... So I really wanted to go back and enrich that whole experience. If the film was the short story, this series is the novel. You go places we only hinted at, in the television show."
At the center of the series is bank robber Seth Gecko (D.J. Cotrona) and his unpredictable brother, Richard "Richie" Gecko (Zane Holtz), who are wanted by the FBI, and Texas Rangers Earl McGraw (Don Johnson) and Freddie Gonzalez (Jesse Garcia).
While on the run to Mexico, Seth and Richie encounter former pastor Jacob Fuller (Robert Patrick) and his family, whom they take hostage.
Using the family RV to cross the border, chaos ensues when the group detours to a strip club that is populated by vampires. They are forced to fight until dawn in order to get out alive.
The series will be a retelling of the original film, branching into areas that only were mentioned in the feature.
"It's much more like reading a novel versus what might have been in the Reader's Digest version, cut down. So it's a much richer experience and we went to retell it in a way to expand it so that when we go into next seasons, it makes more sense.
"We wouldn't want to make seasons based on the film, but off something that has a much wider, deeper storytelling," Rodriguez says. "That's where the fun really comes in. Exploring things that were only just ideas we had way back when."
The network won't be entirely programmed for young males. Rodriguez showed with his "Spy Kids" movies that he can make kid-friendly productions. He would like to launch a Saturday morning lineup once the weekday schedule has just the right bite.
"From Dusk Till Dawn": 9 p.m. Tuesday, March 11, on El Rey Network
TV and movie critic Rick Bentley can be reached at (559) 441-6355, firstname.lastname@example.org or @RickBentley1 on Twitter. Read his blog at fresnobeehive.com.