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‘Salvation’: Why the New CBS Thriller Made Sure to Include Diversity in Its Casting

Director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo ("28 Weeks Later") explains that having diverse lead actors was essential for telling "a global story."

Salvation CBS

CBS

Right now, the folks at CBS are immeshed in the debate surrounding the loss of “Hawaii Five-0’s” Asian American series regulars. But at the very same moment, the network is also launching a new series with the sort of diversity that could serve as a positive example for the rest of the network.

Salvation,” CBS’s latest high-concept summer drama offering, doesn’t get nearly as crazy as “Zoo,” but instead takes a conspiracy thriller approach to what would happen if an planet-killing asteroid was discovered to be heading towards Earth.

The show is centered around a small group of characters who are all-too-aware of the doom heading towards them, working to save humanity while also trying to prevent a panic. That cast is led by Ian Anthony Dale, who recurred on “Hawaii Five-0” and is of Japanese descent, along with Chilean-born Santino Cabrera; while the supporting cast includes Shazi Raja, Erica Luttrell and others.

It’s more diversity than we’re typically used to seeing from CBS shows, as has been noted, and something that was key to the creators as well as executive producer Juan Carlos Fresnadillo (who also directed the pilot).

“Having in mind that we are dealing with a world thread, it was very important to convey that with international casting,” Fresnadillo said. “That’s why I was very happy when everybody was following this kind of idea, making this a very open, international, and diverse [show].”

Fresnadillo was tapped to direct the pilot by creators Liz Kruger and Craig Shapiro, and “the first thing that I felt, in terms of my attraction to the project, was the fact that it was kind of a conspiracy thriller. But very based and very character driven, which is something that is very appealing to me.”

Salvation CBS

A Spanish director whose early films included “Intacto” and “28 Weeks Later,” Fresnadillo is one of many filmmakers who have recently made the move to television. Besides “Salvation,” Fresnadillo also directed the trippy pilot for USA’s dream-infused “Falling Water.”

He prefers to direct pilots as opposed to individual episodes. “One of the things I really love working in the pilots is the idea that I’m setting the tone of the show,” Fresnadillo said. “I’m creating the template of the visual language and the style.

“Always, I prefer to leave in the pilot,” he added, “because it’s much more creative and you can literally launch the style of the show. Which is really exciting.” (That said, he might be open to returning in Season 2.)

The casting process had just started when Fresnadillo read the script, allowing his vision for a diverse ensemble to be in the mix early on. “My vision for this was very well received from the creators,” he said. “I think we were on the same page in the terms of the kind of casting that we wanted for this show. It was very easy to work with Liz and Craig in this matter, because they were very open to hear all of my suggestions.”

Salvation CBS

CBS will likely face questions in the coming weeks regarding diversity on its fall schedule. While the Eye network does feature the new series “S.W.A.T.,” starring Shemar Moore, the rest of its line-up is dominated by shows starring white men.

Coincidentally, “Salvation” and “Hawaii Five-0” share an executive producer in Peter Lenkov, who recently made a statement defending “Five-0’s” casting shake-up by noting the diverse nature of its supporting cast.

A more powerful statement? Making shows like “Salvation,” which push beyond supporting roles.

“Salvation” airs Wednesdays on CBS. 

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