It's more than a bit ironic that the set of Fox's new drama series The Finder is, well... so darn hard to find. That's probably because the last place anyone would expect to discover a Florida Keys dive bar would be in the middle of a chilly Los Angeles oil field. But sure enough, in a well-lit clearing at the tail end of a dusty trail of pumping derricks, the cameras are rolling on a night scene that finds stars Geoff Stults, Michael Clarke Duncan and Mercedes Masöhn throwing back beers after wrapping their characters' case of the week.
At nearly 6-foot-4 and with perpetual scruff, rugged 34-year-old Stults looks just like the kind of dude who'd work out of a bar in the middle of nowhere, or — as the watering hole is dubbed — The Ends of the Earth.
Stults plays Walter Sherman, an Iraq War veteran-turned-finder of lost people and things. Offering a tour of the set, he explains, "We have the luxury of shooting in the real Florida twice this season" to bank multiple episodes and create a look of authenticity. Modeled after an actual Florida bar named Jimbo's, the eclectic set even replicates rusted trailers that surround the pub and serve as homes for Stults' and Duncan's oddball characters.
Stults describes Walter as "a little off" after sustaining a brain injury in battle. "But Walter believes [the injury] has given him a heightened sense of awareness." That includes bizarre dreams that offer cryptic clues to help him track down what's gone missing.
Cast in the role of attorney (and owner of the bar) Leo Knox, 6-foot-5 Duncan — best known for his 1999 Oscar-nominated role in The Green Mile — shares one weighty similarity to his character: Both at one point were morbidly obese. While Duncan topped the scales at 365, Leo reached 400 pounds after suffering the deaths of a wife and child. Now looking far healthier and comfortable in a loose-fitting tropical shirt, Duncan's doing his best to stay warm during a night shoot that will stretch into dawn. "I'm thinking about Miami Beach," says Duncan, emitting a recognizably hearty chuckle. "But you have to do what you have to do."
The Finder's whimsical cases will differ significantly from the typical crimes of other procedurals. "So far this season, my character goes looking for everything from a meal to a serial killer," teases Stults. "It's all over the place." Tonight, he's looking for a lost bullet that may free a death-row inmate — but to consult on the case he first must be evaluated by Dr. Lance Sweets (John Francis Daley), a character from Bones.
In fact, The Finder was created by Hart Hanson, and Walter was first introduced last spring on an episode of Hanson's long-running Bones. David Boreanaz's FBI agent Seeley Booth sought the special tracking skills of Sherman, with whom he'd served in Iraq. The series will run for several months in Bones' time slot to accommodate star Emily Deschanel's maternity leave, with one episode directed by Boreanaz. And Bones' Hodgins (TJ Thyne) will also guest on a coming episode.
Aiding Walter and Leo in their weekly pursuits is Willa Monday (played by 16-year-old newcomer Maddie Hasson), a wayward gypsy girl working at the bar per the terms of her probation from juvie. Sexy agent Isabel Zambada (played by Chuck vixen Masöhn) was added to the cast after the pilot's female lead, Saffron Burrows, was dropped.
As part of the required reshoots, Masöhn recalls, "We went back to the same cafe in Florida where Saffron had been sitting, and I got to have my own scene with the boys, which allowed me to step into those shoes and cement my place in the show."
Together, the foursome makes a surprising family of oddballs. "I think what Hart wants to do with our show is the exact opposite of what he did with Booth and Brennan on Bones," explains Stults. "Instead of 'Will Walter and Isabel ever hook up?' they clearly do." Yet Stults hopes viewers will tune in to see if the two "ever realize they are perfect for each other. One of my favorite lines from the pilot was, 'The only thing that Walter can't find is lasting love.' We'll find out if that can change."
The Finder airs Thursdays at 9/8c on Fox.