In the latest episode of Bull, title character Michael Weatherly will be thrust into the world of esports for a case unlike any he and his team have been faced with.
During "The Fall," -- which will air Tuesday, Feb. 7 on CBS -- Bull must help a professional esports player accused of throwing a championship game sue his former team manager for defamation. In order to win, Bull must prove his client is a compulsive winner and psychologically incapable of losing on purpose.
For those unfamiliar with the show, Dr. Jason Bull is a psychologist and "trial science" expert. He uses his skill to help his clients lawyers with everything from selecting the right jurors, to helping his client's lawyers decide which arguments will help them win the case.
ComicBook.com had the opportunity to speak with executive producer Mark Goffman about the episode and what it took to bring the world of esports to an entirely new audience.
So first things first, how did esports get onto your radar?
Mark: It's fascinating. It first got on my radar a few years ago because a friend of mine is now art director for League of Legends. He's like, 'Come here. You've got to see what we're doing over there.' I was just completely blown away by League. The universe, what they had created, the level of gameplay, and the number of people who were playing absolutely blew my mind. It was something like 100 million people a month are playing. Most people play at least an hour a day. I was just blown away.
I was lucky enough to get invited to go to the League of Legends championship at Staples Center. Seeing the cosplay and seeing the level of enthusiasm while realizing this is the dawn of a whole new type of sporting event was amazing. Esports is as, or more popular, than many traditional sports. That just blew my mind.
You’re also bringing in some folks from the world of esports, what did you have to do to make that happen?
Mark: Well, obviously there were a lot of rights issues and all kinds of stuff we have to navigate for network television, but what we wanted to do was first and foremost capture the feeling of esports and being a fan, which Chunk is and has been ever since he was injured as a football player in college and he got involved in playing. At first playing and then watching great people play. I think, to me, again, that was one of the most mind blowing elements was seeing that it's not just people who play, and I like to play video games, but to then watch other people play. It is a spectator sport.
We then went out and contacted people within different sports to be a part of the episode, because we really strive for authenticity both in the law and in whatever world we're diving into in the show. We were very fortunate to get a couple of shoutcasters who were terrific. One of them, Morgan Webb.
She's terrific in the episode. Of course, we needed actors to play the parts, because they're pretty substantial parts in the episode. We created a fictitious team that one of the players is accused of tanking a big game, the final of the world championships. We got a terrific actor, Omar Maskati, to play the lead client in this.
We then went about filling out as much of the esports element with real people who are involved in the game. We used Titanfall 2 for the game in the episode, which I think works fairly well for what we're doing and we get to see some of that gameplay.
Esports team drama ranks among some of the best. How did you guys immerse yourselves to make those relationships authentic?
Mark: Yeah, absolutely. What we loved about the episode is just being able to mix a whole new level of gameplay, that I don't know that a lot of our audiences are familiar with, and the timeless interpersonal dynamics that you deal with in any sports and any human drama. To capture that was what we were going for.
In order to do it, we are fairly research intensive and we like to immerse ourselves in the world. We had a young writer, Thomas Wong, who is a huge gamer who co-wrote the episode with David Hoselton. We did a lot of research and we all actually went in and played together, and that inspired one of the scenes in which Benny, who is kind of a novice and trying to figure out the game and getting destroyed.
What I love about the sport is the fact that you do have these four people on a team who have to work as a team. They have a mission. They have all these real incentives, and then real world gambling on the event, and the fame and fortune that comes with being a pro athlete in a very new sport. That's something we focused on is, unlike baseball or football where there is unions and player leagues and a lot of very set rules, most of the e-sports right now are still in their infancy in terms of those standards. Both owners and gamers are making it up as they go, and we'd have to play into how can somebody get taken advantage in this new world?
I can only imagine that Bull has no idea what this world is like. How does he react to this new environment?
Mark: That's a lot of the fun in the episode is exposing Bull to a new world and seeing how he reacts to it, because both from a sociological perspective and psychological perspective, he is looking at things in terms of how does this change human behavior? What is motivating all these people to do the cosplay, to play this new game, to watch other people playing this game? He is a neophyte. He was not really that well versed in video games. We start the episode with Bull and Chunk getting to go and sit in a box and watch this spectacle.
He's observing and he's realizing how important this is and that there's a generation of people who have embraced this in the way that the last generation may have embraced college football. That's fascinating to him, and that's where he zeroes in on getting to know what makes these players tick. They have that same competitive edge that an Olympic athlete would have. How do they train? How do they work together? That's Bull's motivation through the episode is understanding the sport.
Bull airs tonight, Tuesday, Feb. 7 (9:00-10:00 PM, ET/PT) on CBS.