(Courtesy of ABC/Giovanni Rufino)
From our set visit into ABC’s newest crime drama, Deception, Villain Media has an exclusive interview with magician Francis Menotti and executive producer Chris Fedak as they discuss “The Archive of Illusion.” Get ready to fight crime and learn a few magic tricks along the way from magician Cameron Black (Jack Cutmore-Scott) and FBI agent Kay Daniels (Ilfenesh Hadera).
As we previously mentioned, the career of superstar Las Vegas magician Cameron Black (Scott) may have been ruined by scandal. But he’s found another place to put his skills of deception, influence, and illusion to use; the Federal Bureau of Investigation. As a consulting illusionist, Cameron uses every trick — even while inventing new ones as necessary — to help the government catch the world’s most elusive criminals and solve crimes that defy all explanation.
The ABC drama came about from the combined efforts of Chuck co-creator Chris Fedak (Chuck) and magician David Kwong (Now You See Me). Magician Francis Menotti is a consultant on the show, working with the writers’ room. As we mentioned before, Menotti teaches Scott how to act like a magician and perform basic sleight of hand tricks, like a true illusionist, in front of the camera.
Before an all-new episode, entitled Masking, airs Sunday April 8th, 2018, Menotti and Fedak discuss how The Archive serves as a meeting spot, group therapy session, and wrap party for Cameron Black (Scott) and Kay Daniels (Hadera).
— Deception (@DeceptionABC) April 3, 2018
[Spoilers: In case you haven’t seen the first three episodes, please read our recap and watch the first four episodes On Demand. From this point-on, we’re diving deep into the episodes.]
Fedak explains the importance of having Kwong and Menotti on set, “If you ever want to pitch a show, magic’s great! David [Kwong] had Francis [Menotti], who is a magician from the East Coast. Francis has been a great part building everything on set, being there and working with our art department to make everything real and credible. They are critical to the show! They’re also critical for me!”
The Deception creator continues, “They’re also the protectors of magic. The last thing you want to do is mess with a magician who has a trick. They help us show this, show that, reveal this piece, but this cant be revealed or it’ll ruin the magic trick. That’s really helpful to me because I don’t want magicians mad at me! This is a home for magic and we want magicians to be excited about it and be on the show!”
In the pilot, Cameron meets up with his magic crew — Jordan (Justin Chon), Dina (Lenora Crichlow), and Gunter (Vinnie Jones) — at the Archive. The team need to prove Jonathan’s innocence but they can only do that with the help of FBI agents, Daniels and her loyal partner Mike Alvarez (Amaury Nolasco). At first, neither side wanted to work with each other, but through teamwork, they were able to apprehend their most wanted fugitive.
Fedak mentions building the environments of the FBI and the Archive, “We have The Archive of Illusion. It’s an amazing set! It’s beautiful! And then we have the FBI. And then we have our cases. Watching those worlds interact and intersect, it’s the fun of the show! Its one of the things I really love about the show!”
At the end of each episode, the magic and FBI team get together at the wrap party after solving their case. Held at the Archive, audiences learn a little bit of back-story about the characters. In Divination, the fortune teller, Vivian (Christine Ko), reveals to Jordan (Chon) that his mentor, Gunter (Jones), thinks of him like a son. Behind the magic and action, there is also a sweet romance brewing between Dina (Crichlow), and Mike (Nolasco).
Menotti describes how the Archive came about, “By not putting it together, the production designers did an amazing job. It’s just phenomenal! Any magician that’s been in there, David, my partner and I, when we first saw it, ‘Oh my God! I want to live here!” It’s a magician’s dream!’”
Menotti continues, “We’ve had little bits of influence here and there. In the beginning, before they even built anything, they would call us and say, ‘What about this? What can we design here? What would be cool?’ We’d be like, ‘This is crazy! I don’t know! It’s a dream come true? We can do anything?’”
As if a make-up room, a library, and a suite were put together, the Archive contains memorabilia of Cameron’s previous achievements, his documentary and the “Leap of Death” special he keeps referring to. It also happens to be a man-cave with its foosball table at the center of the room. Also in Divination, Vivian (Ko) describes the Archive as his home, because Cameron never had one growing up.
Menotti praises the production design by Anne Stuhler, “We had ideas and influences. But that usually made it into writing aspects than anything else. We influenced it but it was mostly Ann’s design. She did a lot of research on it.”
In Escapology, during the wrap party in the Archive, Kay catches Cameron in a lie. He has been thinking about helping his brother, Jonathan, escape from prison. Daniels makes a promise to Black; she will chase after them.
Airing Sunday April 8th, 2018, Masking follows Cameron Black (Scott) and Daniels (Hadera) as they are called upon when a church’s stained-glass window is stolen. The theft took place while a famous street artist was painting a mural nearby. Will Cameron lead Kay’s investigation towards the real criminal?
[Writer’s Note: Links are highlighted in bold. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.]
Right after American Idol, Deception continues Sundays on ABC at 10pm.