Though she has lost her memory and is found naked in a bag in Times Square, Blindspot’s mystery woman Jane Doe (Thor’s Jaimie Alexander) is anything but a damsel in distress.
Dosed with an experimental memory-loss drug and covered in an array of tattoos, Jane lands in the custody of the FBI, who hope to decode her ink to deduce her identity. “This is essentially a female Jason Bourne,” says Alexander. But creator Martin Gero stops short of calling her a supersoldier. “She’s a character of incredible vulnerability and impossible strength,” he says. To get the scoop on fall TV’s badass heroine, read below:
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Where did the idea for Blindspot first come from?
MARTIN GERO: It started with an image for me. That opening sequence of the NYPD going to disarm a bomb in the middle of Times Square and the bomb being a woman, and the tattoos—I don’t know where it came from, it just came to me one morning and I was like, “Oh, this is a show. Let me figure this out.”
Tell us about the tattoos. Do they always lead her to a new case?
Yeah, our case of the week comes from the tattoos. Each tattoo has a very specific design and purpose, and then the tattoos as a whole, as a giant treasure map, also have a very clear endgame of what they want—what they want the FBI to investigate and what they want the FBI to find.
Who are “they”?
Well, you’ll just have to watch, I can’t give everything away! Somebody has a very clear plan, obviously, and has gone through some extraordinary means to execute this thing. The good news is we do know, I just don’t want to say it right now.
Do you have a bible that basically describes what every single tattoo means? Or are there some that don’t yet have a meaning?
We have an enormous amount of them [figured out]. I would say certainly the first couple of seasons, we know what those tattoos are. And then we’ve built in some buffer tattoos that are just relatively generic that we can reverse-engineer cases out of if we need it. The tricky thing with a design like this is everyone sees them all at once, so we really had to do an enormous amount of work before we shot the pilot to really figure out how does this work? What do the specific tattoos mean? What do they do? Where do they lead?
Are you ready for fans to screen grab everything and try to decode it right away?
For sure, for sure. I’m relatively confident it’s very difficult to do on its own. There are pieces in the show that we’ll introduce that unlock the greater meanings of some of the tattoos, but yeah, absolutely. Obviously the casual viewer is not going to care if you sneak a tattoo in there, but there are viewers that totally will. So we have to service both of them.
Are you ready for the Prison Break comparisons?
Oh, sure. I mean, that show was real successful, so it’s not a terrible comparison. The comparison ends at the fact that there are full-body tattoos. Ours is more of a treasure map conspiracy show than Prison Break was.
Now with that said, do you have a timeline for how long you want this show to go, or have a general sense of where the story ends?
I think the good thing about the climate in television nowadays, even when you’re pitching these shows, you have to have a vision for the first two or three years, and we certainly have that. It would be crazy to say that’s locked in stone, as we discover what works in the show and what doesn’t, what the audience gravitates towards and what we as writers gravitate towards. We definitely have those tentpole episodes plotted out for the next several years. I kind of know what to do beyond that, if we are lucky enough to get to that point. So yeah, there’s a lot of story built into that body.
And you know the end?
The very, very end? I know the end. Yeah. I do know the end.
What are some of the themes you’re going to be addressing on the show?
Identity, certainly, is a huge one. One that we, I certainly grapple with, is whether our past defines us, and whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing.
Let’s get into Jane Doe. Tell me what kind of person she is.
Well, she’s such a fascinating character. I think that’s why Jaimie Alexander was such a find for us. She’s a character of incredible vulnerability and impossible strength. So to have those play in the same person—at the same time, even—is really compelling. She’s both a victim of a crime, but refuses to be a victim post–the memory wash. She certainly has an incredible skill set that’s going to be so fun to exploit as we move down the first season and beyond.
What exactly happened to her?
She’s taken a very experimental memory loss drug, which is based on a real drug. But she’s taken, essentially, an overdose of it, and it’s erased her narrative memory. The example we used in the pilot is she knows what the concept of music is, but she doesn’t remember who the Beatles are. So she can function in the world—she understands the basic concepts of society and how things work and what the internet is—but she doesn’t remember any specifics to her life and beyond. As the show goes on and she starts to recover more and more of her memories, she’ll be able to slowly piece together what she thinks her past might have been.
So she will get pieces of her memory back?
Yeah, absolutely. Just trying to find the context of those pieces is going to be the puzzle, because the flashes that she gets sometimes don’t line up with the other information that the team is putting together about her. So it’s a point of tension for her through a great part of the season.
Would you describe her as the perfect super soldier?
I don’t know, I mean, I’m reticent to use words like “super,” because I don’t think she’s like a superhero. I think she’s definitely the result of an extraordinary training career. She’s a very refined weapon herself. She is a blunt instrument. And there’s only so many places where you can learn how to do that.
For you personally, as a storyteller, how are you balancing sort of giving fans answers while still keeping Jane shrouded in mystery. What is that challenge like in the writers’ room?
Well, that’s the biggest discussion that we’re having, not only in the writers’ room, but with the studio and the network. How much do you give away? Every show’s got to find their own secret sauce. If you give away too much, the show kind of runs out of steam way too quickly. Then you’re left with not enough secrets and stories and great reveals. But if you dole them out too slowly, people just get really bored. It’s a mistake for shows like this, that are serialized, to be all middle. For us, every three or four episodes, there’s going to be some major, major reveals, and early on, there’s huge reveals every episode. We really want to get people excited and engaged in the mystery of who Jane is. And the great news is this backstory that we’ve come up with with her is extraordinarily complicated. So we have a lot of cards to turn in our deck before we run out.
Would you say the ultimate question of the series is “Who is Jane Doe?” Or is that something you might decidedly answer much sooner than we expect?
You’ll know by the first season who Jane is. It’s not something we hold onto forever, but I want to make it a surprise when.
Is there something in particular that inspired the title of the show?
Obviously, she has a huge blind spot. She doesn’t remember a giant portion of her life. But I think also Kurt Weller starts to develop a blind spot with her. He becomes obsessed just trying to figure out why his name is on her back. And he starts to potentially lose objectivity when it comes to Jane.
Blindspot will premiere Monday, Sept. 21, at 10 p.m. ET on NBC.
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