TV - The Recruit

With the action filled spy drama series now on Netflix, read a short Q&A with The Recruit's creator, showrunner and executive producer, Alexi Hawley...

Press Release

THE RECRUIT centers around Owen Hendricks (Noah Centineo), a young CIA lawyer whose first week on the job turns upside down when he discovers a threatening letter by former asset Max Meladze (Laura Haddock), who plans to expose the agency unless they exonerate her of a serious crime. Owen quickly becomes entangled in a dangerous and often absurd world of power politics and mischievous players, as he travels the world in hopes of completing his assignment and making a mark at the CIA.

The 8 one-hour episode series is executive produced by Centineo, Doug Liman (who directs the first two episodes), Gene Klein, David Bartis and Adam Ciralsky and Alexi Hawley who also serves as Creator and Showrunner. The series also stars Fivel Stewart, Vondie Curtis Hall, Kristian Bruun, Aarti Mann, Colton Dunn and Daniel Quincy Annoh.

Where did the idea for this series come from?

ALEXI HAWLEY: Originally it was an incoming phone call to me from Hypnotic, which is Doug Liman's production company. They had been working and talking to a guy who was a former CIA lawyer and THE RECRUIT had come out of conversations with him. I was excited about the story possibilities that came with the idea of blackmailing a national security organization in order to get them to do stuff.

Can you describe the series for viewers?

ALEXI HAWLEY: THE RECRUIT is a show about a young guy, Owen Hendricks, played by Noah Centineo, who's starting his first week as a lawyer at the General Counsel's Office of the CIA. He gets thrown in way over his head once he starts investigating a graymail case that turns out to have huge national security implications.

It seems like a younger take on the CIA — would you say that?

ALEXI HAWLEY: I'd absolutely say that. The thing that was exciting to me about the show was Owen Hendricks was the young protagonist. It felt like a fresh idea to approach a genre like spy and espionage from a young point of view. Most spy movies and most spy shows are about a thirtysomething-year-old guy who's really good at his job, and to bring in this kid who just graduated from law school, who's way in over his head, who's super charming and also super willing to jump into the deep end without looking first, felt fresh and new. But Owen also has roommates and a messy love life and is really just starting out at his first job, which is something that everybody can identify with. Most people can't identify with working as a spy or a lawyer for spies or any of that. But everybody can identify with being 24 years old and starting down the road toward adulthood.

Where did some of your influences for the series come from?

ALEXI HAWLEY: Finding the genesis of Noah's character, of Owen Hendricks, is a combination of Tom Cruise in that early scene from A Few Good Men where he is on the ball field and is cocky and charming and has never been challenged in his life; and Bill Murray from Stripes. In Stripes Bill Murray is a guy who was a total screw up, but was also so charming and gave these rallying speeches to people with absurdist humor. And I love the idea that there was a sense of humor and absurdity to the character of Owen Hendricks and to the world that we're living in because the reality is that this show's version of the CIA is much closer to the real CIA than what you see in Jack Ryan or Bourne Identity or any of those similar types of movies or series.

An interesting part of the series is that though it's a drama, there’s humor and the humor happens in moments that are actually quite stressful. Can you speak about that?

ALEXI HAWLEY: I love playing with tone. I do it on The Rookie and I do it on this show because life is like that, right? Life has every tone. Sometimes you're having a laugh and then something tragic happens. And to be able to create a show where you can go from humor to tragedy or humor to action or action to emotion within a scene, it's hard to do because you really have to ground everything and you don't play anything as funny. You really play the reality and the truth of something. It's a hard tone to navigate but I actually find it really satisfying. You want to enjoy watching the show and the humor helps balance it because there are great moments of action and emotion and scares and tragedy, but the humor helps make it fun to watch and it helps you take a breath to get you through the tension.

For this series, how would you describe the visual look you went for?

ALEXI HAWLEY: Obviously it was a dream to have Doug Liman come in to direct the first two episodes. He’s made three of my favorite movies of all-time. And to really get to work with him and have him involved in the deconstruction of the genre was amazing. It was fun for him and it was fun for me to get in there and go, “How do we honor the genre and also turn it on its head?” Because that's really what we're trying to do. The audience has expectations for the genre. They’ve watched so many spy things that there are things you have to do because they expect them but then how do you deliver in a way that's unexpected?

Let’s talk about Noah. How did he become involved in the project?

ALEXI HAWLEY: We sent him the script hoping that he would be interested in it. And he loved the script. He'd sort of joked with me that when he was reading it, he was like, “Who gave Alexi permission to get in my head?” — because I've written a character that really resonated with him, which is incredibly rewarding. He's a joy. He loves the show. He loves his character. He shows up for work with more energy than I've had in 20 years. I couldn't ask for a better partner in this and a more professional actor.

What does he bring to the character of Owen?

ALEXI HAWLEY: He is the age of the character and he knows how to lean into that. And he’s a really good actor and he brings depth and he understands the nuances of everything. There's a lot going on in his face, and it's always a joy to write for an actor like that because you don't have to do as much because it's all here. And you can give him the lines that you need but you're not doing it to give him exposition because the audience knows what he's feeling.

Noah’s also an executive producer on the series. What does he bring as a producer?

ALEXI HAWLEY: The same sort of passion for the project that he brings as an actor. From the very beginning, he's been incredibly excited about this show. I think he sees it as a role that he's never played before and one that really will help transition him from the TO ALL THE BOYS I'VE LOVED BEFORE version of him, this sort of high school romantic comedy guy, into a real leading man. And he's very invested. He and I talked all the time and he loves the script but he calls if he's got some questions. It's a really good relationship.

Would Noah be a good spy?

ALEXI HAWLEY: I think he would be a good spy. The actor in him would be good at the subterfuge, I think, and there are definitely elements of him that would be disarming and misleading. And he's also super smart. So I think that would help him, too.

Describe the different aspects of Owen's life, his intersection through the series, his relationship with Max and his D.C. life with his roommates.

ALEXI HAWLEY: The thing that was so exciting to me about the show and about his character was that it was a way into two different worlds. I've been talking about the genre of spies but there's also a genre of, for lack of a more nuanced term, YA (young adult), and he's at that age where your parents' relationship with you matters. You have roommates. You have these relationships that are going on. And the fun of having both of those genres in the same show was really exciting. And he's got these two roommates, Terence and Hannah. Hannah is someone he met in law school. They had a brief romantic relationship but now they're living together as friends although there's clearly some unresolved feelings going on there. And Terence is a friend of theirs who works at the Treasury Department but they're all young professionals who are literally in the first weeks of starting their new jobs. And everybody can relate to that.

You have his relationship with his roommates that are grounded in his humanity and then you have his relationships at work with Lester and Violet, who are two other first-year associates but unlike him and unlike most law firms, Lester was a case officer for the CIA for 10-plus years and Violet was an army lawyer for an equal amount of time. And it's their first year at the CIA but they have history and careers behind them and here comes this 24-year-old who's fresh out of law school and they see him as competition. And you get this great back-stabby relationship going on with them and with the other characters in the CIA, which is a place where if I win, you lose. And people are constantly trying to undercut each other. And then you throw in Max Meladze, who is this former CIA asset who is a member of the Russian mafia in Belarus, into the mix. She was a lieutenant in the Russian mafia who fled because they tried to kill her and now she's in jail. And we're trying to figure out what her agenda is and if Owen can trust her. But at the end of the day, she knows more about the CIA than most people and she helps him navigate through stuff that his co-workers won't. It ends up being a really interesting relationship.

Tell us about casting Laura Haddock as Max.

ALEXI HAWLEY: Laura is phenomenal and I think this is a role unlike anything she's done before, which I think was very exciting for her and very exciting for us. She comes really from a very thoughtful place as an actress and she really does her homework and we have her do a lot. Not only the Russian accent but at the top of Episode 2 there's a whole scene for her that's in Russian and she had to learn that. She found both the pathos and the joy in the character and she just really pops on-screen.

Tell us about casting Owen's two roommates — Hannah played by Fivel Stewart and Terence played by Daniel Quincy Annoh.

ALEXI HAWLEY: It turns out that Fivel and Noah have known each other for a long time. I think since high school or something in real life. Fivel came to us not initially through Noah but the second her name came up, we got from Noah that they were friends. After watching her audition, it was an immediate no-brainer. You were like, “That's her. That’s Hannah.” And the hunt for Terence took a little bit longer. But, again, once we saw Daniel we just really fell in love with him. And because it's really the triangle of this relationship, it's the three amigos. And it's not just about Hannah with Owen and it’s not just about Terence with Owen, it's about the three of them together. The group feels deeply cohesive and they have great chemistry. They're awesome.

What was the most challenging aspect of the series?

ALEXI HAWLEY: The weather and the cold. It was definitely a lot.

What do you hope audiences will take away from this series?

ALEXI HAWLEY: I hope it's a show that people really look forward to watching and that they get excited about. It's been a hard few years. A long time with the pandemic and everything. And this is a show that's really an escape and a ride and it has stakes. People get hurt, people get killed, but it's also just a bit of a joy. And what I really hope they take away is a sense of being entertained. It's not homework. The show is a lot of fun.

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