Exclusive Interview: Robert Rodriguez on ‘From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series’

Robert Rodriguez began his career as a writer/director and film editor, quickly adding visual effects and music to his resume. Now add Network Executive as Rodriguez launches the El Rey Network.
The first original series on El Rey will be “From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series,” based on his own movie which starred George Clooney and Quentin Tarantino as Seth and Richie Gecko. The Gecko brothers kidnapped the Fuller family from a motel to use them as cover while crossing the Mexican border. And if you’ve seen the movie you know where they ended up. 
The series retells the story of the Gecko Brothers, their escape to Mexico and the monsters they encounter south of the border. If you’re attending the South by Southwest Film Festival, you can see the pilot episode early on Saturday, March 8 at 4PM in the Vimeo Theater. “From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series” premieres March 11 on El Rey and we’ve got more coverage of the show coming next week. 
CraveOnline: Was “From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series” always going to be retelling the Gecko Brothers story? Was there ever a pitch that was a brand new “From Dusk Till Dawn” story?
Robert Rodriguez: No, when I did the original film, I had added in a bunch of research that I’d done into Mesoamerican, Aztec, Mayan type mythology, trying to find some different type of vampire blood cult that might have existed them. That’s where the snake imagery came from for Salma [Hayek]’s character, the last shot of the temple to suggest more to it than just the surface bar. I wanted to make either another movie about that or explore it in some way, so when it came time to do this series, I thought that would be the way to approach the series, especially for El Rey network, to get much more into that mythology and for future seasons. 
In order to pull that off, you have to almost retell the original story. So I looked at it as if that original film was the short story, this television series would be the novel. New characters, different motivations, different outcomes for the original characters and just weave a larger novel out of it so that we could set up that temple and the Mayan mythology for the second half of this season and onward into other seasons, in a much bigger way. The supernatural begins right off the bat in the first episode.
Oh really? Because one of the great things about the movie is it’s almost a completely different movie until they get to the Titty Twister. Now you don’t have to hide that it’s going to become a vampire show?
Exactly. You don’t have to hide that there’s something supernatural going on until the second half. That way every episode sort of follows the way that the series works. The series is described as a crime saga with supernatural elements. You get that in every episode. The degree is still much greater once you get to the bar. When it finally turns on, because I just directed that episode, it’s powerful. You’ve been waiting now, six episodes following these characters, you almost want it to happen. 
You like them so much, and when it turns on, it turns on in a really great way because the effects are better today. Even though KNB worked on the original film, post “Walking Dead,” makeup effects and the technology behind that and digital effects technology is so much greater. It really tops the film as far as what we’re able to pull off. The quality level is just really, really striking and high so I’m really excited about it. I’ve already directed more episodes than I think directors usually ever direct in a season of a show that they start. Usually you direct the first one, maybe the last one too but I’ve already directed half the season. I’m on episode eight right now.
The movie was Quentin Tarantino’s script. Did he have any stipulations for how that would be adapted?
No, we both control the rights to it so nobody could ever make it. There’d been interest before, people who wanted to turn it into a series of movies but if neither one of us are going to be involved that much, who knows what the quality would be like? The intentions are good, networks are weird, if somebody takes it to a network the rules they would apply on them, notes would be given and who knows what it would get watered down to? 
So we never really were that interested in letting anyone do it, but when El Rey network came about, that seemed like the perfect way because I had the final say in that. I could really make sure it was done at a quality level that we’re all comfortable with. He just granted me the rights. He thought it was a cool idea. He wanted to see it. He’s busy working on his own stuff but was into it and liked the idea that we’re going to take it and use it for El Rey. He was a big fan of the whole idea of El Rey ever since I told him about it the first time several years ago. I just had carte blanche to take it. He loved the whole concept of how I was going to go retell it in a different way, have the whole season take place from dusk till dawn and be on a clock like that.
Big Kahuna Burger was a reference to Pulp Fiction in that script. Now is there more to that story?
Big Kahuna is one of the fake products that we created. He created Kahuna Burger and Red Apple cigarettes and I made Chango beer and different breakfast cereals for my movies. We would just come up with our own products because we couldn’t get permission from companies to use real products. It was kind of cool having our own products. In From Dusk Till Dawn, George Clooney at one point comes back with some Kahuna burgers and gives one to Quentin and they’re eating Kahuna burgers on camera. 
Well, when I was breaking down the season, I thought, “I want to now see him, what adventure did Seth go on when he went to get that burger and what possibly could have happened at that burger place that was a near catastrophic scenario? What trouble did he go through just to get this burger back to Richie?” So that becomes a whole episode, part of an episode, that whole trip to Kahuna Burger so for the first time you get to see a Big Kahuna Burger. What it looks like inside, how it operates, we have some fake commercials for it. It’s pretty cool.
All from the opening scene of Pulp Fiction with Samuel L. Jackson eating the burger.
Yeah, it’s also in Pulp Fiction. He used it there. I’ve used Kahuna Burgers in some of my  films, you see characters eating Kahuna burgers. We use each other’s products in each other’s films.
None of this would have happened if Jacob hadn’t insisted on staying at a motel and sleeping in a bed. Do you give more reason for why they stop at the motel in the series?
Yeah, I don’t want to give away too much, but everybody is drawn to where they’re going to end up for a reason. You feel it much more how these destinies are colliding and intersecting. Nothing is accidental. Everything is carefully orchestrated and people are supposed to be exactly where they are. If they didn’t come that way, they would still end up at the exact same moment in the bar at the exact same time, no matter which way they could have turned or gone. They could’ve skipped the motel and you see where he could have encountered them at another time.
That’s how we took it and it’s really cool to play with the timeline like that, and with people’s destinies like that. It really does feel like a novel version of “From Dusk Till Dawn” where the film was the shortcut version.
You have “Matador” from Bob Orci coming to El Rey. How many original series can El Rey sustain at once? How much production can you do for El Rey in a year?
It depends how many episodes. This one, we’re almost done already. We only started in November and we’ll be done in March. “From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series” has 10 episodes. Then sometime pretty soon we’ll be starting “Matador.” That’s going to be 13 episodes. So we have room to do at least another show this year, and then the other ones would come back for more seasons. So probably two or three per year seems like a good number, and then we’re going to grow to four or five new shows total in the next couple years.
Do you know what the third one is going to be yet?
Can’t say yet but we’re working on it. We’ll announce it at some point.
You’ve said Nerveracker is going to be your next film and Fire and Ice keeps getting pushed off. Should fans worry about when Fire and Ice is going to get done?
No, I’ve worked on Nerveracker off and on a lot so that one’s going to go pretty quick. It was mainly The Weinsteins had an option on it. I was going to do Fire and Ice first, but then they came and said, “You know what? We’re ready for Nerveracker and you owe us that one first.” So I’ve got to do that one before Fire and Ice but Fire and Ice will be right afterwards. I might do something where they’re back-to-back because Fire and Ice could be going by the end of the year if I do Nerveracker in the summer which would be ideal for me.
Is Nerveracker going to be Grindhouse/El Mariachi style or also green screen style?
A little mix of both. 
Did directing the pilot and episodes of “From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series​” taken you out of movies for a little while?
Not really. I wasn’t going to do Nerveracker until summer anyway. While I’m doing these, I’m finishing Sin City. That’ll be done to be released in August. So the timing was good. I wouldn’t have shot Nerveracker until summer anyway. This went by so quick. I can’t believe we have 10 episodes in the amount of time it’s taken to do one film. That’s how television is so I’m really excited about it.