Exclusive Interview: Brad Fuller on ‘Black Sails’ and ‘The Last Ship’
Brad Fuller was full of news for me. He was on two panels for the Television Critics Association for separate shows, but since we go back in the film world, I got a one on one with him.
I spoke with Fuller about all of Platinum Dunes’ upcoming film projects, as well as their first TV series, “Black Sails,” premiering this weekend on STARZ. The other show is TNT’s “The Last Ship;” which isn’t on until the summer, so this is an advanced scoop. “Black Sails” is a gritty drama about the pirate life, and “The Last Ship” is about a naval ship at sea when a pandemic breaks out stateside. We’ll be profiling the “Black Sails” cast in subsequent interviews as well.
CraveOnline: Was it really just a coincidence that you got two boat shows?
Brad Fuller: It wasn’t a coincidence. It just kind of worked out that way though. We weren’t seeking out to do two crazy shows on water. “Black Sails” happened way before “The Last Ship” did. When we were developing it, it seemed like we can’t get two boat shows to go at the same time. That would never happen. And that’s what happened. We just loved both stories.
Is Platinum Dunes getting out of the horror business?
No, we are definitely not getting out of the horror business. Today, as soon as I finish my interview with you, Fred, I’m going to the set of The Purge 2. It’s shooting in Downtown L.A. My partner who you know well, Andrew Form, isn’t here because he’s on the set of Ouija which is also shooting in L.A. We are very excited to start Friday the 13th. We are trying to figure that out, so no, we are firmly ensconced in the horror business.
Was horror ever an option for your TV production?
We’d love it to be. We just haven’t found a story. I try every day.
When you decided to get into television, how did it work? Was Platinum Dunes soliciting scripts, or making offers on pilot scripts that were out there?
No, we started talking to William Morris about getting into the TV business. Michael [Bay] was resistant to going into TV because I think that he felt like we couldn’t replicate what we were doing in the movie business in the TV business because none of us really knew it. We didn’t know the people or how to make it work. The budgets are less and the schedules are tighter.
After we did a little bit of research into it, we decided that we wanted to go into cable TV because it’s a little bit longer and they give you more time to develop the scripts. So our agent set us up on maybe three or four meetings. Of those four, one was [“Black Sails” creator] Jon Steinberg. He pitched us this show, “Black Sails,” and we loved that. Another one of the meetings was with [TNT president] Michael Wright. Michael Wright is a huge Michael Bay fan and he says, “Listen, I want to be in business with you guys. Whatever you’re interested in, just bring it to me. If you don’t have anything, here’s a book that I love. If you think you can figure out a way to get through this book and tell this story, I’d be very interested.”
He gave us the book of “The Last Ship” and it is a wonderful but dense book. I think I read it first and then Form read it and we all came to the conclusion, wow, that is a great story. We can update that. That’s kind of how it started. As you know, we’re a tiny company so there’s just not a lot of ability to develop a million different things. That was kind of our slate and that’s what we focused on.
You started with two boats on “Black Sails.” At what point did you realize you needed a third?
In the story of “Black Sails,” in the second season there is a Man of War that we had to build. I just got back from Capetown. It’s insane. I can’t believe those boats are down there. I sometimes wonder if we don’t blow up these boats at the end of the series, what are they going to do with them. They’re huge. These are real, life size, huge pirate boats and they are amazingly detailed in what they did. I don’t know what they’re going to do with them but the third set is this Man of War that we built.
So when there are two ships in a scene, is that movie magic or can they be side by side?
When we have two boats in a scene, one is in the tank and one is right next to the tank. We can’t get both boats in the tank so what we call the 3/4 boat stays in the water and the full boat is right next to it.
Is the tank from an existing studio?
No, it’s an amazing thing. Starz and Capetown Studios, I don’t know how they did it but they built the tank on this backlot for our show.
Is the entirety of “The Last Ship” on the ship, or do they have excursions as well?
On “The Last Ship” they’re off the boat, they’re on the boat so we’re not living on the boat the way we are in the pilot.
Are we going to meet remaining civilizations?
Yes, we will. We will meet remaining civilizations.
Do you have to be a little more vague about “The Last Ship” than “Black Sails?”
I really don’t. I’m not smart enough to know what I shouldn’t tell you. It feels like on that show it’s all about finding the cure. There are resources necessary to do that. The crew of the Nathan James every week is trying to secure everything they need to find the cure to stop this virus.
Is it all about finding the cure, or can there be episodes about life with this epidemic?
It can be both because I think the bad guy, there are different bad guys in the show, but the overriding bad guy is this virus. Rachel (Rhona Mitra), her job is to figure out a cure to that virus so the whole first season basically is what do they need to do to find the cure? At the same time, encountering different obstacles when they’re getting the resources for the cure.