Eric Van Wagenen probably isn’t a name you’re familiar with, but he’s had a hand in a lot of reality shows, from Bully Beatdown to the 2011 version of Tough Enough, and now he’s a producer and the showrunner for Lucha Underground. Eric was on Steve Austin’s podcast on Wednesday, and he revealed a lot about Lucha Underground. Here are some highlights:
On the Lucha Underground roster: Austin points out that several people on 2011 Tough Enough, Martin, Ivelisse, and Matt Cross, have found their way onto the LU roster. Van Wagenen notes that they “couldn’t form a roster that matches the WWE,” and that they “need some square pegs.”
On the Temple: Van Wagenen says the space that became Dario Cueto’s lucha temple was one of the first things he found during the pre-production process a year ago. Eric adds that the Temple holds about 350 people in chairs, with another 100 standing against a railing, but more than 1,000 people show up for tapings, so a lot of fans have to be turned away. He also says that Cueto’s office was inside the building to begin with, and it had to be planned around.
On Lucha Underground’s budget: Being that El Rey is a start-up network, the budget was extremely low, but some investors from Mexico stepped in and offered to cover excess costs to ensure that Mark Burnett, CEO of United Artists Media Group, would be involved with Lucha Underground. Van Wagenen says that Burnett wanted in on Lucha Underground because he realized that the Latino audience was under served.
On early challenges: Twenty-four hours before the first episode of Lucha Underground was scheduled to be filmed, three wrestlers were held at the border because they had the wrong visa to cross. “We had six scripts already written out and approved, we had to throw them all away, 24 hours before we started shooting.” Prince Puma vs. Johnny Mundo was not originally scheduled for the first episode, but the creative team didn’t have many other options. “John Morrison signed his contract 30 minutes before he walked out to wrestle.” Chavo, Vampiro and Konnan joined the three writers for an all-night session to get a show together before filming began the next day.
On working with Ivelisse: According to Van Wagenen, “Ivelisse’s character is very true to how she is as a person. There were several times that she barged into my office and said, ‘Eric, I’m not happy with the direction my character is going,’ and we welcome that.”
On Dario Cueto: Van Wagenen notes that Cueto, who is a classically trained actor, “makes everyone better.” There were some concerns that Cueto wouldn’t work out, and might not last past the first batch of episodes, in which case he could get killed off. The first things they filmed with Cueto were at Triple Mania last year, and the fans in Mexico didn’t like his Spanish accent. Cueto later told Van Wagenen, “Someone told me my mother’s pussy tastes like sour milk.”
On Season 2 of Lucha Underground: “El Rey absolutely wants us back. There’s an offer on the table for 40 more episodes, start airing in October. We want to maintain a certain level of production value. There’s the amount of money El Rey is willing to spend, and then there’s the amount of money we need to maintain the level of quality that we’ve established.” Van Wagenen adds, “There is a combined effort from everyone involved to bridge the gap between what El Rey is offering and what we need. All options are on the table, whether that’s Netflix or iTunes or a secondary broadcast partner, DVD sales, merchandise, whatever it takes. Once we close that gap, we’re announcing.”
On LU’s goals: “The bigger goal for Lucha Underground is not to be putting on major pay-per-views and big touring six nights a week. The bigger goal for us is to create super heroes. We’d much rather be The Avengers than WrestleMania. Our endgame is movies, animated series, comic books, cartoons. It’s all the stuff in the Marvel world, so we create a Marvel world, we create those Marvel cliffhangers. We create those sort of Marvel superheroes, where the women are just as tough as the men, and there are a few people with special powers. There’s Mil Muertes defying death, and Fenix has a thousand lives. We’re slowly treading into the super natural.”
On the origins of Lucha Underground: Van Wagenen says that LU began as a manga written by an associate of Robert Rodriguez’s, and that several characters, like Son of Havoc and Prince Puma are in the original manga. There are also season two characters in the manga who haven’t been seen yet. LU also got help with research from PhD Karl Taube, who has studied ancient Mesoamerican tribes.
There’s a ton of other great stuff in the 90 minutes, so give it a listen if you have the time.