When the series “Nash Bridges” ended in 2001, star Don Johnson felt they “didn’t get a chance to finish the story.”The detective drama had been on the air for six seasons when it was cancelled due to “political circumstances” between producer Paramount Network Television and network CBS, according to the actor.
(Despite the fact that the series had decent ratings for CBS, Paramount decided that the production costs were too high.) The show is still popular in syndication twenty years later. As TV’s nostalgia craze has resulted in reboots and revivals of dozens of late-twentieth-century series, Johnson’s titular Special Investigations Unit captain role was given a fresh start in a new format and on a new network.
The resurrected “Nash Bridges,” which begins with Johnson’s Nash being suspended from the force and then jumps ahead to a year later when he returns to the action, was originally conceived as a chance to reboot the crime drama for the twenty-first century. The scope of the storey Johnson and writer/executive producer Bill Chais wanted to tell, however, was too large to fit into a single episode.
The end result is a two-hour film that will air on the USA on November 27th. Johnson served as an executive producer on the film, which reunited him with original series co-star Cheech Marin.”We’re picking up where we left off, and then something crazy happens, and he’s off the force for a year,” Chais says of Nash.
“During that time, he’s had some time to reflect and had conversations with Cheech’s character [where he was] deciding whether he wants to return, and realizes he has to because the city is in terrible trouble.” As in any episode of the original series, a crime requires Nash’s attention — specifically, a “surprising murder of someone you don’t like,” as Chais teases.
“The whole thing would have been like a really satisfying hour of television if it had just been about solving his murder, but what it spins off to is what gave us the scope of a two-hour movie.”Nash reunites with his former partner Joe Dominguez (Marin), but he also has to work with the next generation of law enforcement, namely Steven Colton (Joe Dinicol), who Nash first labels as a “millennial snowflake” and butts heads with because of Steven’s insistence that Nash need not be so quick to draw his weapon.
In crafting the storey for this “Nash Bridges” movie, Chais says he thought a lot about how policing today is different than it was 20 years ago. While he still wanted to capture the same “’80s buddy cop” tone of the original series, he also saw “an opportunity to tell a show about a person who was in ascendancy and the master of all that he surveyed and just kicking ass and everything in one era, and now it’s 20 years later, and it’s a different era and how is he going to function?”
“The difference between the millennials and the boomers” was what Johnson thought gave this story its unique blend of comedy and conflict and made him excited to step back into the world of the show again.
“There’s a line I ad-libbed that I think encapsulates what we’re talking about here,” he says. “We’re checking our guns and Steven says, ‘What are you doing?’ and we say, ‘We’re checking our guns.’ ‘What for?’ ‘To be ready.’ And he says, ‘Have you ever thought about talking to people?’ Nash goes, ‘Yeah, I love to talk to people if they’re not throwing hot lead at me.
‘”The key, according to both Johnson and Chais, was highlighting the differences between Nash’s old-school ways and today’s, without presenting one as superior to the other.”The idea is that someone who is older and came up in a different way has something to teach and a lot to learn.” “And we felt it worked both ways,” Chais says. “We never wanted to be preachy; we just wanted to be sensitive to the fact that the world is changing.” He wasn’t a part of any problem, but the world has changed, and perhaps there is more he could do to help.”Another thing that needed to change — at least slightly — was Nash’s demeanor.
After all, he, too, is decades older.”I stay fit for the mental part of my being more than for the physical part — though the physical part is incredibly important for flexibility and just living a good, healthy life.” So I felt it was important to bring that to the character, but I also felt it was important to say, ‘OK, you can still bring it, but he’ll wait a minute or two before bringing it.’ “He’s wiser, and he’s less likely to be the testosterone-filled dude who would kick indoors and be the first one through the door and all that he used to be,” Johnson says.
But he’s still faster than most at jumping into action, and Johnson pushed Chais to do more action sequences for the “Nash Bridges” film.
Chais, who has worked on shows ranging from “Franklin & Bash” to “Unforgettable” and “Bull,” was excited to inject character banter into high-octane situations like “car chases, gunfights, and oil trucks blowing up.” Because, no matter how much the conversation about law enforcement has changed, one thing has remained constant: how dangerous the job can be.” Nash Bridges” capitalizes on this by introducing a movie villain who is “universally bad,” according to Chais, “so that no matter where you’re coming from, you’re rooting for the bad guy to get got, quick and hard.
“Although the story in this two-hour project is self-contained, the refreshed world it creates includes new character dynamics that Chais and Johnson hope to see more of in the future, now that content creators have exponentially more options in the streaming era.”I’m not the type of guy who looks back,” Johnson says. “Opportunities missed are simply missed opportunities.” Do I think there’s anything we can get out of some of the other original characters and bring back some of the people I had on in the first place? Sure, I do. “And I’ve got some fantastic ideas,” Johnson adds.
“In this day and age, I can do them any way I want: I can make it a four-part miniseries with close-ended episodes within an hour, but the miniseries has a runner in it that takes us through four episodes.” It’s liberating, and it provides me with such a diverse palette and canvas to work with.”
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