By JUDY SLOANE
Front Row Features
HOLLYWOOD-Fox’s new drama “Alert: Missing Persons Unit,” stars Scott Caan (“Hawaii 5-0”) as Jason Grant and Dania Ramirez (“Devious Maid”) as Nikki Batista, who were both police officers in the Philadelphia Police Department. Jason and Nikki were married, but their relationship was turned upside down when their son Keith (Graham Verchere, “The Good Doctor,”) went missing, a mystery that continues to this day.
Now Jason is involved in personal security, while Nikki was promoted to the Head of the Missing Persons Unit at the Philly P.D. When Jason receives a possible proof-of-life photo showing Keith is alive, he and Nikki reunite, personally and professionally, to continue to fight for their son, and for others who have loved ones that are missing.
Co-Created by Showrunner and Executive Producer John Eisendrath (“The Blacklist,”) the drama premieres on Fox on January 8th, 2023, following the NFL game. John, Scott and Dania digitally joined the TV Critics Association tour to talk about their harrowing new series.
Q: Scott, after ten years on “Hawaii 5-0,” what was it about this series and this character that made you willing to recommit to the possibility of maybe another long, grueling schedule?
Scott Caan: That’s a good question. There are a lot of different reasons. I think this script was really special. There are a lot of procedurals that have a formula that I didn’t notice in this. But honestly, I don’t think about what kind of a show it is. If I can find something in myself that I can put into this character, then that’s what makes me decide I want to do something. Also, I’m grateful to be given a job too, I like to work.
Q: John, where do these cases come from? I’m guessing this is a world that you can really tap into.
John Eisendrath: There are a lot of cases that we can draw from if we chose to do just ripped from the headlines. In episode 2, there’s a story about fentanyl and the overuse of it and the scourge of fentanyl in America today, which I think is very topical. (But) some of it is just based on what we think would make for the most urgent, heart‑pounding case that we can think of and the ones that have the highest stakes. Some cases, people are taken and are desperate to be found; some cases, people are running away and are desperate not to be found. And that’s part of the mystery that our characters have to unpack each week.
A lot of the cases are picked, in part, because of the way that they impact Scott and Dania’s characters as it relates to their own personal story.
Q: Can you talk a little bit about the process of casting Dania and Scott to play the leads?
Eisendrath: Obviously, I was familiar with Scott. I had watched “Hawaii 5‑0,” and when I imagined who Jason is, I had imagined someone who had to have the ability to be dramatic, to carry these incredibly intense stories, but be funny. I believe that people who work in this kind of environment have to be able to have dark humor, have to be able to deflect the pain and the intensity of the world they’re in. And when Scott’s name came up, I realized, “Well, he meets all those requirements.”
With Dania, whose work I was less familiar with, I immediately looked at so much of what she had done and felt like, Nikki is the one who is centered around empathy and emotional connection to people who are grieving. And the minute we talked, I immediately knew that Dania was someone who could personify the essential trait of who Nikki is as the heart and soul of the show.
Q: Dania and Scott, your characters Nikki and Jason are really struggling with that gaping hole that their missing son has left. How would you describe the state of their relationship at the start of the show, after they’ve gone through the six years of looking for Keith, and how does that dynamic continue to evolve over the course of the season?
Dania Ramirez: The dynamic absolutely changes and I think it evolves through the season. Where we are at the beginning, when you first meet us, having our son be missing for that long, has connected us in ways that you can’t connect with anyone else. And I think we have a very authentic way of wanting to deal with the cases because of it; we have a very authentic way of how we relate to each other because of it.
Caan: One of my favorite things about starting something new, when it works out, there’s nothing better than getting to know somebody and have that show up on screen. To me, that’s the most fun. We hit it off immediately, and the first two scenes we did, I was like, “All right, we got this.”
Ramirez: We have a great relationship on and off camera. And to have that dual relationship on and off set, really makes for an incredible experience and a journey to take the audience on.
Q: In the show you’re basically living out every parent’s worst nightmare. How emotional is it for you, and is it difficult to let it go after some of these highly emotional scenes?
Caan: I think it is. It’s one of those things where our job definitely comes home with us, and I don’t realize how affected I am by it. Every day, we’re dealing with really horrible stuff.
Ramirez: That’s not something you can shut off right away. It’s very difficult. Dealing with a show that has to deal with missing children is something that’s really close to the heart, and it’s hard to leave behind.
Caan: So basically after we do five, six years of this show, I’m going to call Michael (Thorn, President, Scripted Programing at Fox) and say, “Michael, put me on a half‑hour comedy immediately, please.”