Jun 20, 2019

Tradecraft: Bourne Spin-off TV Show TREADSTONE Sets Cast, Starts Filming

It's been a while since we've heard anything about Treadstone, the TV series spun off from the Bourne films and based on the secret super assassin program originated in Robert Ludlum's novel The Bourne Identity (review here), but that doesn't mean things haven't been happening! Yesterday, Deadline gave us a glimpse at some of those developments.

Reiterating what we already knew, the trade summarizes, "Treadstone explores the origin story and present-day actions of a CIA black ops program known as Operation Treadstone — a covert program that uses behavior-modification protocol to turn recruits into nearly superhuman assassins. The first season follows sleeper agents across the globe as they’re mysteriously 'awakened' to resume their deadly missions." Assuming the series takes place in the movie universe (which seems likely), then it would make sense for the present-day segments to feature a reactivated Treadstone under new leadership, and the origin sequences to serve as a prequel to the films set in the late 90s or early 2000s, theoretically opening the door for a new actor eventually being introduced as a younger Jason Bourne.

According to the trade, spy veteran Michelle Forbes (Berlin Station, 24) leads the cast in what sounds like a role similar to Joan Allen's in the movies as "Ellen Becker, a savvy CIA veteran trying to balance the demands of work and family while investigating a conspiracy with international implications." Patrick Fugit, who stood out in a small role in last year's First Man, "recurs as Stephen Haynes, a high school math teacher with a dark side that he’s struggling to keep under control." (I'm assuming that means he's one of the sleepers.) Michael Gaston, whose extensive spy credits include playing the President on Jack Ryan as well as turns on The Americans, 24, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Blindspot, and The Man in the High Castle, "plays Dan Levine, a no-nonsense senior CIA veteran overseeing an investigation that involves some of the Agency’s darkest secrets." Bollywood star Shruti Haasan "stars as Nira Patel, a young woman in Delhi whose waitress job serves as a cover for a dangerous double life as a trained assassin." Brian J. Smith (World On Fire, Sense8) stars as Doug McKenna, and Australian actress Tess Haubrich (Alien: Covenant) recurs as his wife Samantha, a nurse who must reconcile her husband's dark past. Jeremy Irvine, Omar Metwally, Tracy Ifeachor, Hyo Joo Han, Gabrielle Scharnitzky and Emilia Schüle also star. So it sounds like Treadstone will follow characters all over the globe, similar to series creator Tim Kring's previous series Heroes.

Kring produces along with Captivate Entertainment's Ben Smith. Smith's fellow Keeper of the Ludlum flame at Captivate, Jeffrey Weiner, will executive produce (as he does on the Bourne films) along with Ramin Bahrani, among others. Acclaimed Iranian-American helmer Bahrani will direct the pilot. Bahrani has directed such indie features as 99 Homes and Chop Shop, the latter of which late film critic Roger Ebert famously anointed the sixth best film of the 2000s. More recently Bahrani directed HBO's Fahrenheit 451, with Michael B. Jordan and Sophie Boutella. His involvement really elevates this series!

Perhaps the best news related in the Deadline article is that filming on this incarnation of Treadstone is already underway in Budapest! I say, "this incarnation" since, as long-time readers will be well aware, this is not the first attempt to bring Treadstone to television. Back in 2010, CSI creator Anthony Zuiker attempted a Treadstone show for CBS. But when Tony Gilroy came aboard to direct the theatrical spinoff The Bourne Legacy, he didn't want a competing version of the mythology on TV, and made it a condition of his directing that the nascent show be killed.

In Robert Ludlum's The Bourne Identity (review here), Treadstone 71 was the shadowy intelligence group that David Webb worked for (based out of a New York brownstone), with whom he created and assumed his more famous identity as assassin Jason Bourne. Nebulous and illegal though it may have been, in the book Treadstone's motivations were basically heroic. The Treadstone of the movies, which creates super-assassins through brainwashing and later drugs, is a much more sinister organization. It was also, I believe, officially shut down by Brian Cox's character, Abbott, in The Bourne Supremacy, and then reconstituted as Outcome by Ed Norton's character in The Bourne Legacy (review here). It will be interesting to see if the TV series mentions Outcome at all, and how closely it sticks to the mythology established in the movies.

Treadstone is not only keeping alive on the small screen, but also in print. As I reported yesterday, the Ludlum estate has commissioned author Joshua Hood to pen the first book in a new Treadstone literary series, The Treadstone Resurrection, which will be in stores this fall—I assume about the same time the show premieres on USA.

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