Interview: Magician Francis Menotti Talks ABC’s ‘Deception!’

Francis Menotti, Deception, ABC

(Courtesy of ABC/Giovanni Rufino)

From our set visit into ABC’s newest crime drama, Deception,Villain Media has an exclusive interview with magician/consultant Francis Menotti discussing the illusions created by Cameron Black. Get ready to fight crime and learn a few magic tricks 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 masterminds behind the ABC drama are Chuck co-creator Chris Fedak (Chuck) and magician David Kwong (Now You See Me). Joining forces as executive producers on the show are Blindspot creator Martin Gero and Greg Berlanti (Love, Simon) — whose name alone dominates the entire superhero genre on The CW Network.

And now, we let Menotti describe his role on the ABC drama, “I’m the magic consultant on the show. I’m working hand-in-hand with many of the actors doing the magic; a lot with the writers room. My partner, David Kwong, does more of the West Coast stuff. I’m in the East Coast, doing the ground stuff. I can tell you anything you want to know except how to do it! [Laughs]”

Before an all-new episode, entitled Divination, airs Sunday April 1st, 2018, Menotti discusses how Cameron Black (Scott) manages to fight crime alongside FBI agent Kay Daniels (Hadera) while performing magic at the same time.

[Spoilers: In case you haven’t seen the first three episodes, please read our recaps and watch the first three episodes On Demand. From this point-on, we’re diving deep into the episodes.]

Showrunner Chris Fedak explains what magicians David Kwong and Francis Menotti bring to the table, “When I first started working on the show with David Kwong, who is our magician. At the very beginning of the show,what we wanted to do, was create something grounded in reality. Whenever we do a magic trick on the show, it’s grounded in the fact that David and Francis have worked together to figure out how you actually do it. Sometimes we actually get to do it! We don’t want to break the law on that day…[Laughs]”

In the pilot, Cameron Black burnt a poker card in flames before holding an apple in his hand. In the second episode, Cameron engaged with the roaming tourists at Times Square, which is a tricky thing to do in itself, and performed a crowd-pleasing act with his blade. And in the recent third installment, Cameron played around with mirrors to save a hostage.

Menotti reveals what he teaches to Scott, “What I thought I had to do was teach him basic slight of hand. The muscle movements, control, and observation; being aware of your surroundings and angles. What I didn’t know is that I’d be teaching him, or rather what he was going to be learning, is how to work an audience. We’ve gone to real magic shows together. We’d have discussions afterwards about how the tricks worked and the psychology behind them. Usually, it’s him asking the questions and letting him guide the story.”

Francis Menotti, Deception, ABC
DECEPTION – “Pilot” – When his career is ruined by scandal, superstar magician Cameron Black has only one place to turn to practice his art of deception, influence and illusion – the FBI. Using every trick in the book and inventing new ones, he will help the government catch the world’s most elusive criminals while staging the biggest illusions of his career, on “Deception.” (ABC/Giovanni Rufino)
JUSTIN CHON, JACK CUTMORE-SCOTT

In our recap of Escapology, Cameron performs a trick that is specifically arranged for two rooms. In one room, people can see into the stage as a whole. The second room is hidden to the side, known as “the blue room.” Black uses a plate of glass at an angle to reflect the view of the blue room. This is how Black managed to save the hostage and the paintings, all before the bombs were triggered.

Would an illusionist be upset if audiences were to see how the trick was really done? Menotti explains, “In one episode, there’s a reference to a trick that is known as ‘The Blue Room,’ using mirrors. If a magician watches the show and says. ‘You’re exposing the Blue Room!’ That’s a real stretch! It’s in a very specific situation. We’re trying to rescue a person from a terrorist situation. How often are you  doing a trick to rescue a person from certain death?

From the actor’s side, Scott explains how his relationship with Menotti works, “The trickiest part of it has been trusting that everybody else out there has my back. I can hopefully perform in an acting and magic sense, with the help of whoever is supposed to catch me when I screw up.”

When the scripts are being written, Menotti clarifies his early involvement, “It’s usually terminology. Early on, in the first couple of episodes, the writers would put something in the script. I’d say, ‘It’s not really called that. We don’t really refer to it as that. Here’s an alternative!’ Either the writers will say, ‘Yeah that’s great!’ Either they’ll change it or they won’t.’”

He continues, “At the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter. I feel like with any show, there’s going to be perfectionists. There will be magicians watching the show saying, “That’s unrealistic! That’s never happened! That’s not the name of this!’”

Francis Menotti, Deception, ABC
DECEPTION – “Pilot” – When his career is ruined by scandal, superstar magician Cameron Black has only one place to turn to practice his art of deception, influence and illusion – the FBI. Using every trick in the book and inventing new ones, he will help the government catch the world’s most elusive criminals while staging the biggest illusions of his career, on “Deception.” (ABC/Giovanni Rufino)
JACK CUTMORE-SCOTT

Should magicians argue over how accurate the show is to their stage? Menotti responds, “I don’t really care. What I mean by that, from the magic standpoint, I want the show to be entertaining as possible, as legitimate and realistic as possible. But at the end of the day, that’s not my call. I think medical shows are a perfect example. I’m sure every doctor’s going, “Oh my God! Really!?!”

Airing April 1st 2018, Divination follows Kay and Black as they investigate the murder of a psychic. The duo discover the psychic had a partner, who’s now on the run. The investigation leads Cameron and the team to take down an international arms dealer.

Menotti does believe viewers will be amazed by the magic that Deception is able to pull off, thanks to the hard-working cast and crew. He says, “I do think the show is going to make young people interested in magic. I think it’s good!”

[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.

By Jorge Solis

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