By Maureen Lee Lenker
February 26, 2019 at 11:00 AM EST
Credit: Larry D. Horricks/ABC

Whiskey Cavalier creator David Hemingson cites Moonlighting as an enormous influence on his new ABC series Whiskey Cavalier, while also likening his main characters to gender-swapped takes on Cheers‘ Sam Malone (Ted Danson) and Diane Chambers (Shelley Long). Those are some big television shoes to fill — a task that falls to Scott Foley (Scandal) and Lauren Cohan (The Walking Dead).

Whiskey Cavalier follows the love-hate relationship and thrilling adventures of secret agents Will Chase (Foley), codename Whiskey Cavalier, and Frankie Trowbridge (Cohan), codename Fiery Tribune. The new espionage dramedy debuts Wednesday, Feb. 27 at 10 p.m. on ABC.

Hemingson says he never had any doubt that Foley and Cohan were the perfect duo to bring the next great “will they-won’t they?” dynamic to the small screen. Foley is also an executive producer on the project, and Whiskey Cavalier marks the first time he’ll be leading a major series after years of solid supporting work on shows like Scandal, Grey’s Anatomy, Felicity, and more.

Bill Lawrence, Hemingson’s producing partner, was friendly with Foley and suggested the two meet for breakfast. “The vibe was right from the moment I met him,” explains Hemingson. “This guy is Will Chase. Scott’s fundamentally a decent guy. He’s a very earnest family man, but he’s also really gorgeous, capable, and a great actor.”

Elaborating more on the character, Hemingson explains, “He’s called Will Chase because he will chase you. He’s relentless. He’s completely dedicated. He is a Boy Scout and he believes in love and he believes in family, and he’s not afraid to show his emotions. Scott Foley, in addition to being able to kick ass, also give you those wounded green eyes when you need them. He feels it and you see it in his eyes. From the moment I met him over an egg white omelette, I was like ‘This guy is the guy.'”

In contrast to Foley’s Will Chase, who Hemingson also calls a “woke James Bond,” the series needed a female costar to play a hard-nosed female agent opposite Foley’s sensitive, emotional intelligence. Enter The Walking Dead’s Lauren Cohan.

“I’m a big Walking Dead fan, and I was immediately entranced by her charisma and accessibility,” Hemingson says. “There’s something at once incredibly familiar and also exotic about here. She’s got star quality.”

A big part of what convinced Hemingson that Lauren Cohan was the woman for the job was her ability to portray emotional subtlety in extremely heightened circumstances like the post-apocalyptic world of the zombie-infested Walking Dead. “She got to the humanity on that heightened show, and you’re rooting for Maggie the entire time,” he notes. “That’s a pretty pronounced genre piece. Any actress who can do that — we were so blessed and fortunate that she read the script and loved it.”

Now, it will just be up to audiences if their chemistry ignites the flames they’re looking for.

Whiskey Cavalier premieres Weds. Feb. 27 at 10 p.m. on ABC.

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