On the surface, The Defenders may seem like just another courtroom drama, but the new CBS series stems from very unusual source material: a documentary.
"The documentary was done by Harry and Joe Gantz, who spent a few months with a pair of Las Vegas real-life attorneys Michael Cristalli and Marc Saggese, who are kind of role models for our series in which we base a lot of the fun of Nick and Pete," executive producer Greg Walker said at the Television Critics Association fall preview.
Originally pitched as a reality series, The Defenders was transformed once it was purchased by CBS. Although the end product is far from where it started, documentary producer Joe Gantz said getting the show on the air after eight years of trying was thrilling.
"It had a lot of the spirit of the documentary, and then the characters that they created were amazing," he said. "And it's different for us because, when we shoot a documentary, we come in with a crew of about six. ... So it's a much different approach, but it's just been an inspiration, working on this."
"I watched it a lot, and the characters — [the] spirit of those characters, you know, Jerry and I are doing for sure," Belushi said. :These guys are characters in the original documentary. They have great strategies in the courtroom, and in real life... they're kind of not so good with women."
O'Connell said he believes The Defenders is just the beginning of reality influencing scripted fare.
"It's also sort of funny that we live in a day and age where, dare I say, reality television is influencing dramatic television," he said. "It's like life imitating art in the world of television [and] where it's going."
The Defenders premieres Wednesday, September 22 at 10/9c on CBS.