At ATX Festival, we had the chance to sit down Complications series creator and executive producer, Matt Nix, along with EP Michael Horowitz and series stars Jessica Szohr and Beth Riesgraf. The new series premieres tonight on USA Network, and coming from the mind of Matt Nix – we were curious how much (if any) similarity the show would have with Nix’s Burn Notice, which wrapped in 2013.
Complications Verses Burn Notice
Matt Nix: It’s pretty different. I think it shares certain things, in the sense that both shows are about, sort of fundamentally decent people in difficult circumstances trying to help do something good. I think on a certain level both shows are examples of heroism.
At the same time I would say Complications is a much more grounded show in the sense that on Burn Notice there were certain things that we had do to. It’s like “well, there have been a lot of explosions in Miami over the course of the last seven years and we’re just going to go with that… Only bad guys got hurt, so in that show there were certain things that you needed to do… When a problem was solved on Burn Notice, it tended to just be solved. We’ve taken care of it, the bad guys have been dealt with, the good guys have been saved, et cetera, et cetera.
I think on Complications, it’s a look at helping people that actually owe more to the world of medicine. When you help someone, there are very few magic medicines out there that make you ok without any side effects, without any difficulty, without any recovery period, and the idea that every action you take has real repercussions… The idea that violence actually can be effective in certain circumstances, but it has real consequences and people really get hurt, and if you’re someone that’s dedicated to helping people and you’re involved in that, you have certain moral obligations.
I think it explores similar themes. I think that someone who watched Burn Notice and enjoyed Burn Notice will find something to enjoy in this show, but they’re very different shows from that perspective. This is really all about all the stuff that we didn’t do on Burn Notice.
A Look at the Characters: Gretchen Polk (Jessica Szohr) and Samantha Ellison (Beth Riesgraf )
Jessic Szohr: Gretchen Polk is basically John’s partner-in-crime. They both work together and they get put in this crazy world. Every time they try to get out of it, they think they’re turning a corner and something blows up. (laughs) Literally something blows up.
Gretchen has had a crazy upbringing and she’s tough. She says what’s on her mind and goes after what she wants and sometimes that gets her in trouble, but she does have a big respect for John. I think it’s the one male role model in her life that she has seen differently, and she does respect him and does let her wall down a little bit with him. But yeah, they get put in this world where as much as they’re trying to get out of it and save everyone and save themselves and their families, they never know what’s going to be around the corner when they get there. They just keep getting deeper and deeper into this whole complicated situation and as much as they both are in it for the same reasons, trying to make the right decision, they’re not always going about it the right way.
She’s in the moment and John’s very structured, so when he’s trying to get out of it and he has it all planned, it drives her crazy because she’s like, ‘We don’t have time for that! Someone’s outside with a gun right now! This is what we have to to!’
They have a really great relationship and it’s been super fun to play. When I read the pilot, it was written so well and the characters were developed – it was so amazing. As an artist, to be able to read that and to bring those words to life is so special, but then when you read the next episode and the next episode, I’m like ‘Oh my God, this show is even better than I thought!’ I was already a fan of the writers and what Matt had done before, and everyone so it was really great because the show for me took a completely different turn. I didn’t think it was going to go that way, and it’s been super fun for all of us, I think.
Beth Riesgraf: I play Samantha Ellison, the wife of John Ellison, and you find us in a place of trying to put the pieces back together after we’ve lost our daughter Rebecca, who’s actually played by Matt Nix’s daughter, Esme, and she’s an incredible actress, and Albert Bates plays my son. I’m at a point where I’ve decided I have to move forward and grieve how I’m going to grieve and John is going to do the same thing.
I’m really concerned about [John], he’s not sleeping, he’s kind of thrown himself into work to the point of, sort of, ignoring all of these other things that he needs to start taking a look at. Our communication has really fallen out and when you see us in the pilot we’re trying. There’s sort of like a little veil of a social thing that we have going on, but underneath it neither of us are really that ok. I think I may be more ok, but I also have done some things in the process of grieving that he doesn’t know about, and he has a lot of secrets that he’s holding back from me. You can see us desperately trying to connect… The need to connect is so strong in a situation like that, yet you’re so numb in other ways and to get your partner to really look is so hard.
So I think you see the two of them struggling to connect and when this happens, it throws everything into a spin. As a woman she’s trying to hold her family together and care for her son Oliver and also try to get back on her feet at her job. She has an amazing opportunity to keep growing there and really is starting to feel like that’s ok to do, and then this whole thing happens, and everything stars spinning out of control again.
The Experience Filming in Atlanta
Jessic Szohr: I love Atlanta!
Matt Nix: (Laughs) Jessica Szohr is the Queen of Atlanta! Literally, there is a queen and she is it.
Jessic Szohr: I love it and I enjoy it so much. At first I’m like, ‘Ok, we’re going there for a couple of months. I don’t know how I’m going to like it.’ Now, I still have my place there, my bikes are there, I like all the restaurants, I’m like into the music scene.
Beth Riesgraf: I brought my son, my dogs, we loved it.
Jessica Szohr: “[The show] was taking place in Atlanta regardless. I don’t know that we would have filmed there without the tax incentives, I’m not sure, but either way, it was taking place in Atlanta.
Matt Nix: Yeah as soon as I knew that it was Atlanta, I don’t like shooting one city for another city, so as soon as I knew that it was in Atlanta, they were like ‘well you can set it in LA but put it in Atlanta’ but that’s a very leafy version of LA.
Favorite Atlanta Restaurants of the Cast
The Optimist, Abattoir, Sotto Sotto, Barcelona, BoccaLupo, Across The Street, and Kale Me Crazy
Photo Credit: Jack Plunkett