The Beast centers on an unorthodox but effective FBI veteran, Charles Barker (Patrick Swayze), who takes on rookie partner, Ellis Dove (Travis Fimmel), to train in his hard-edged and psychologically clever style of agenting. The mischievous Barker hazes Dove as they go undercover on their first case to infiltrate a weapons smuggling ring. Barker brilliantly manipulates situations, constantly tests his new partner’s abilities and pushes him to delve deeper into the roles of the undercover characters he creates. Although Dove takes a liking to Barker, the new job takes its toll on him. The stress and danger of being an agent quickly makes him realize that he can no longer maintain normal relationships outside of work. Yet that’s not the worst of it. The rookie is confronted with a larger challenge: an FBI Internal Affairs team feels Barker may have gone rogue and they try to enlist Dove as a double-agent in the bureau's investigation of his mentor.
On the panel are:
Executive producer and showrunner John Romano
Executive producers/creators William Rotko and Vincent Angell
Director and executive producer for the pilot Michael Dinner
Hunky actor Travis Fimmel
But notably missing -- and someone of course all the journalists here were eager to see -- is the series' big star, Patrick Swayze. Swayze is, of course, famously fighting valiantly against pancreatic cancer, and just recently told Barbara Walters that he's been "going through hell."
This morning's panel started with an announcement that, this morning, Swayze checked himself into an area hospital for observation, suffering from pneumonia as a side effect of his chemotherapy.
Swayze had completed filming of the show's pilot -- clips from which were shown at the TCA convention, and Swayze looks good in them -- before he learned his cancer diagnosis. Then, the producers say, the actor lobbied to continue his role on the show. And to the network's credit, the producers note, A&E "wanted to do what was best for Patrick." The pilot completed shooting in November 2007, and got its pickup to series in January 2008, just as Swayze was learning about his illness. And despite the fact that the series would shoot for many months later, The Beast took the risk and went forward with Swayze as its lead.
In response to how Swayze's illness affected the structure of the show and mood on the set, the producers commented the following:
Angell: When you work with him 12 hours a day... Most of us would get tired before he would. When you would think about what this man would go through to get to work every day, it was inspiring. I think for him [this morning's hospitalization] is a bump in the road.
Dinner: I always joke we'd all live in Chicago if it weren't for the weather. It's a great city. When we were shooting the pilot it was very cold. On a street-based show it's not easy. And to see this gritty gutsy guy go through this, it was pretty amazing.
Rotko: Patrick going through cancer, it brings you all together. On a personal note, It would make you stop and think before saying you had a tummyache in the morning. Because he's battling such tough conditions.
Romano: The audience is aware that he's bringing the force of his own personal struggle into that performance. All of us who write that show work in the shadow of that tremendous act of courage. That's how we do this show. But he does it 5 days a week, 12 hours a day. Patrick loves putting [great work] up there.
More news as it develops, including details about The Beast.