Time to get excited for Briarpatch, your next TV obsession.
The USA drama stars Rosario Dawson as Allegra Dill, an investigator who returns to her border-town Texas home to solve her sister’s murder. There, she reunites with her old pal-turned-crimelord Jake Spivey (Jay R. Ferguson), plus meets Police Chief Eve Raytek (Kim Dickens) and charismatic arms dealer Clyde Brattle (Alan Cumming).
Dawson, Ferguson and Dickens attended a panel for the Television Critics Association along with showrunner Andy Greenwald to share what’s in store in USA's 10-part murder mystery. Here are eight things to look forward to when you watch Briarpatch on Thursdays, starting Feb. 6.
1. A Murder Mystery
Sure, Allegra wants to catch whoever planted a bomb in her sister’s car -- and hopefully bring them to justice -- but the show is not about avenging Felicity’s death.
“I wouldn’t necessarily look at this as a revenge story,” Dawson said. “This is really a murder mystery and a revelation for this character about the armor she’s put on in life to survive, coming from an incredibly impoverished background and a lot of childhood trauma. She’s clawed success out of a lot of really trying situations, and now she’s actually put to her most incredible test, which is dealing with the murder of her sister."
2. A Sense of Humor
Allegra is in an intense situation but she approaches it with an attitude that keeps things humorous.
“Even as trying and terrible as it is, the very first line you hear from Allegra is actually one that I improvved on the day,” Dawyson said. “It’s when she gets picked up at the airport and Jerzy asks, ‘Ms. Dill?’ And she goes, ‘The one and only.’ Her mother is dead. Her sister is now dead. It’s kind of, I think, a small, immediate window into the mind of Allegra Dill.”
3. An Updated Story
If you loved the Ross Thomas novel, great. Briarpatch will deliver on what you appreciated about the book. But you’ll also get more, including Rosario Dawson!
“I’m a man in the book,” Dawson said. “My character is Benjamin Dill.” Dickens shared that Chief Raytek is also new to the show. Let's hear it for strong female leads!
4. Cinema Quality
Briarpatch comes from Esmail Corp. of Mr. Robot fame. They make shows that look like movies, but Briarpatch doesn’t just look like any movie.
“The day we met with Ana Lily Amirpour, she walked in in her Suicidal Tendencies t-shirt and her biker shorts and said, ‘Oliver Stone’s U Turn, David Lynch’s Wild at Heart, Tony Scott’s Top Gun,” Greenwald shared. “And I was like, ‘Take me.’ We wanted to make a hot noir. We wanted to make a classic story updated and switched up and spiced up and heated up for our contemporary era, so [I] definitely give her a lot of credit as well for giving us just the push we needed in that direction.”
5. A Special Setting
There is no town of San Bonifacio on the Texas/Mexico border -- that was an invention of Greenwald, which the show had to bring it to life. And they were able to do so in Albuquerque, NM.
“One of the great pleasures for all of us was to create a place that doesn’t exist but felt like maybe it could,” the showrunner said. “The amazing thing about Albuquerque is we found a fictional place within a real city.”
6. Real Animals
When Allegra visits Jake, he has giraffes roaming around his yard and those aren’t special effects…
“I remember when we were about to shoot that scene when we were doing the pilot, and somebody told me that we were going to have real giraffes,” Ferguson said. “I thought they were just totally jerking my chain and then I showed up and there were two giraffes there.”
Meanwhile, there’s a tiger loose in Allegra’s hotel.
“As it turns out, though, you can do almost anything in Albuquerque,” Greenwald said. “You cannot bring a live tiger up to the third floor of a hotel. We remedied that on the last day of production, and there is a real tiger.”
7. Life Imitating Art
Okay, if you watch the pilot and think Allegra’s relationship with a senator is an homage to Dawson’s real-life romance with Sen. Cory Booker, it’s not. Dawson confirmed Briarpatch came first.
“We shot the pilot in September 2018,” Dawson said. “I started dating Cory in October of 2018. So it was definitely very interesting and brought up a lot of kind of interesting conversations. I’ve even had one with his Chief of Staff -- just as the show was starting to come out and that information was getting out -- be like, ’Is there anything we should be alerted to or made wary of or aware of?’”
Greenwald said he heard from Booker about the episode.
“They were FaceTiming, and she turned it around so I could talk to the senator,” Greenwald said. “I said, ‘Hello, Senator.’ And he said, ‘What’s your problem with senators, man?’ So I think we get along now.”
8. Larger-Than-Life Characters
If you only know Kim Dickens from Fear the Walking Dead, House of Cards or Gone Girl, wait ‘til you see her as Chief Raytek.
“I said to Rosario, ‘You know, I’m usually just covered in dirt and killing zombies, and now I have all these monologues to do,’” Dickens said. “So it was a nice challenge for me, and it was really fun… It has so many comic elements to it. But it was also fun to play the character who was just, like, bigger than life with a lived-in flair to her. I just I haven’t gotten to play a character like that for forever -- not since I was in acting class.”
Briarpatch premieres on USA Network Thursday, Feb. 6, at 10.9c. Watch the trailer here.