DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency) agent Alex Walker (Christian Kane) was out there busting bad guys with the best of them until an operation in Barcelona went ole-oop and his partner betrayed him.

Then his doctor warned him that he had a silent killer shadowing his steps – that hypertension diagnosis forced him to make a sudden career change. Now he’s spinning out his remaining days on the tropical island paradise of Cebu in the Philippines. Meet Alex, new owner and manager of a beach gift shop that he bought sight unseen. And ladies and gents, what a dump!

Sadly for Alex, though, his dream of idle island life is turned on its head not because he’s going to have to tackle some serious renovation projects in the sweaty island heat, but because the beach he’s chosen is also a secret luxury hot spot for every high-rolling, scum-sucking criminal mastermind in the Philippines. Despite his best intentions – and to the frustration of idealistic and honest local cop Detective Kai Mendoza (Samantha Richelle), her partner Ernesto (Arthur Acuña) and Cebu’s Chief of Police Ike Ocampo (Nonie Buencamino) – Alex finds himself caught up in unmasking the villains and trying to shake their grip on the local population.

It’s heart-pounding physical action with beautiful scenery all the way. And it’s a third working partnership for Christian and series creator Dean Devlin, who also worked with Christian on The Librarians and Leverage.

Finding Paradise

The basic idea behind Almost Paradise took root in Dean’s head many years back while he was on honeymoon in Hawaii. “I was watching the local news. There was a story about how some neighbours in a small town rose up together and did a citizen’s arrest of these drug dealers who were in their neighbourhood. It got me thinking about island justice and island culture, and the way people bond together when they live on an island,” says Dean.

It was Dean’s wife who suggested that, as someone who’s half Filipino himself, he move the action from Hawaii to the Philippines. With a completely different island culture in place, one that would be fresh to viewers (farewell to Magnum P.I. comparisons), Almost Paradise was born. “This show will expose to the world aspects of the Philippine culture, landscape, spirituality and customs that have never been seen before. It’s a fun action show placed in a completely fresh environment,” says Dean.

But it’s no tourist brochure. Dean adds, “Any time we’ve seen anything in film or TV about the Philippines, it’s always some kind of poverty porn – it’s the Philippines as ‘the other’. The Philippines is very much like [American] culture. One of the things that was really important in our show is that we didn’t want to make it this weird, exotic world.”

“To me, what was really more important was, who does [Alex] encounter and how do they behave? How are they represented? How is their spirituality and morality represented? That, to me, is where the real test is. The way in which we deal with the government, the police, the individuals, the store owner – I think that it’s authentic without diving into the individual politics of the moment,” Dean adds.

It’s a passion for representation that comes through strongly in smaller character moments. “There’s a very funny moment in the pilot that I love, where Ernesto has not spoken a word in [the episode] and we’re almost halfway through it. Alex says, ‘What’s up with Silent Bob here, does he ever speak?’ And Ernesto says, ‘When I have something to say.’ To me, that’s such a Filipino moment,” Dean reveals with a laugh.

I need a hero

Christian is the only American in the cast, but when Dean originally created the role of Alex 10 years back, he was really too young to play a man who was conceivably at the end of his law enforcement career. Fortunately, though, as the years went by and Dean kept working on Almost Paradise in the background of his other shows, Christian aged into the role perfectly.

“This is a much more emotional and damaged character than Kane played in Leverage or The Librarians. Agent Walker wears his heart on his sleeve. He tries to cover his tentative emotional state with humour. I think you’re going to see a side of Christian Kane you’ve never seen before. More vulnerable, more exposed,” says Dean. “This is a character where we never sure if he’s being funny or if he’s having a breakdown. Maybe both things are happening simultaneously. It’s a very defective detective in that regard,” he jokes.

“Christian’s character in the show is a very damaged person and the theme of the show really is about healing. I do think that Asia Pacific islands have a kind of magical healing power that’s really unique. It comes from the people. It comes from the culture. It comes from the tropical weather, but all of it comes together in kind of a magical way,” Dean explains .

Leaving Paradise behind

Shooting on S1 of Almost Paradise completed just before the global pandemic lockdown went into effect in the Philippines. “When I called ‘wrap’ on the finale, they had just announced that we had only 18 hours before the airports would be closed. We raced back to our rooms and frantically packed to try make the last flight out of town. Luckily we made it. Not so lucky for some of our crew who got stuck there for nearly three months. I’m happy to report that they’ve all recently finally gotten home,” reveals Dean.

Watch Almost Paradise S1 from Monday, 5 October on Universal (DStv 117) at 20:00

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