Burn Notice Uncovers Sam Axe's Secret Past in the Colombian Jungles
Before he moved to Miami for a life of mojitos, Hawaiian shirts and sugar mommas, Sam Axe (Bruce Campbell) was a commanding officer with the U.S. Navy Seals. So how did he get from point A to point B?
That's the story Burn Notice creator and executive producer Matt Nix will tell in the upcoming special two-hour movie, Burn Notice: The Fall of Sam Axe.
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"A lot of it is about seeing this guy who is a soldier and not really a deep thinker and not really dealing with deep moral challenges," Nix tells TVGuide.com. "Through this story, you see how he changes and see what turned him into the kind of guy that, when Michael Westen turns up in Miami and says, 'Hey, want to run around with guns and explosives and help me help people,' Sam's answer is, 'Of course I do.'"
Written by Nix, The Fall of Sam Axe follows Sam's final mission for the Navy Seals when he's sent to the jungles of Colombia to investigate claims of a dangerous terrorist organization.
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Nix says he began thinking about the movie before the beginning of Burn Notice's sophomore season as a way to not only show Sam's sizable evolution as a character, but also to show fans the movie star side of Campbell, who was known for his movie career in B movie classics like The Evil Dead and Escape From LA long before Michael Westen entered the picture. "Bruce Campbell is a movie star in his own right and sort of an icon of a particular world. I had grown up watching Bruce Campbell movies," Nix says. "Selfishly, I was just excited to write a movie for Bruce."
Another big influencing factor in the project was the film's shooting location. Sam was always known to have extensive experience in Latin America, so when Fox (which produces the TV series) said the production would be able to shoot in Colombia, it "became much more of a Colombian story," according to Nix.
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Although Nix is used to being thousands of miles away from Burn Notice's Florida-based production, going to a foreign country with a different language provided a whole new set of challenges. Luckily, Nix was able to find someone very familiar with the series to helm the two-hour film, Burn Notice star Jeffrey Donovan. "He knows Bruce's character as well as anybody other than Bruce," Nix says.
Donovan, who directed one episode of Burn Notice previously, was the perfect fit for the Colombia shoot precisely because of his limited time behind the camera rather than in front of it. "Knowing how movies are normally done doesn't do you a whole lot of good in Colombia because a lot of things are just fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants," Nix says. "Jeffrey, who didn't have many years of experience and a lot of expectations, was able to go down to Colombia and be excited even when you show up on a set and the weather is different, or there's six hours of traffic."
With Burn Notice's Season 5 premiere only a few months away, viewers will find that events from the prequel film will play into the action. Nix says yes. "You'll see things from this coming back," Nix says. "Elements of the movie are going to sort of creep into this season and there are aspects of Sam's past that Michael doesn't know about that turn out to be complicating factors in this season in a big way."
Beyond the upcoming fifth season, it's possible that another two-hour movie could be in Burn Notice's future. Nix doesn't rule out the possibility of delving into Fiona and Michael's respective back stories.
"If this turned into an opportunity to do it multiple times, it'd be awesome," Nix says. "If it turns out that this is a one-off and we won't be doing another, this was a great experience and I'm glad we did it."
Burn Notice: The Fall of Sam Axe airs Sunday at 9/8c on USA.