Frank Darabont went from the post-apocalyptic future world of The Walking Dead
to something entirely different for his next television project with a 1940s LA noir theme.
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Mob City is a three-week limited series premiering Wednesday, December 4 and airing two-hours a night starring Neal McDonough as Police Captain William Parker (Captain America, Desperate Housewives), Edward Burns (Entourage) as the infamous mobster, Ben "Bugsy" Siegel, Jon Bernthal (The Walking Dead) as Detective Joe Teague and Milo Ventimiglia (Heroes) as Ned Stax.
Frank Darabont, executive producer and creator, spoke to journalists on the phone recently about how the project began and on balancing the historical facts with his creative vision. Read on for edited excerpts of his interview.
What was the inspiration for Mob City?
I was in the newsstand at LAX before jumping on a plane. I poked my head in and I saw this book called LA Noir. Noir being right up my alley and LA being a great component of Noir. I grabbed the book thinking that it actually might be some fictional thing, and then wound up realizing as I was flying that it was non-fiction history of this, which actually made the book even cooler to me. I couldn't put it down for a two days. Once I had read it I immediately made a call to find out if the rights were available.
The story is based on historical events, how much is true and how much is fictionalized for drama?
This is honestly the loosest adaptation I've ever done. It's not in any way to disregard John Buntin's book because it really is the inspiration for everything. It's really a good book, definitely our touchstone. I gave myself license very early on to just make up as much of I felt we needed to make up to tell the most entertaining, good sort of meaty, you know, mob story, good, pulpy, good, noir stuff.
I mean that's the promise that I wanted to deliver on, and not turn it into sort of the, you know, the Masterpiece Theater docudrama version of events. So, yeah we've thrown caution to the wind on this one. Bless his heart John is abundant; he seems to be definitely enjoying the fact that we've done that. So we're weaving fictional elements very much into the non-fictional historical elements and having a blast doing it.
Even though this is a fictional telling of the story, were there any particular elements that you really wanted to make sure to keep historically accurate?
Well, even in our historical accuracy we're taking liberties. So, I always say thank God it's not a, you know, a documentary. Certainly, on the very basic level, on a core level of what John wrote, and what we're going to be telling is the, really the focus of the mob versus the police, really came down to the story of Mickey Cohen versus William Parker.
John did a brilliant job of detailing; distilling everything to that dynamic, because it really was the fulcrum point of so many events and the entire power struggle, those two men butting heads. So that's very much in the long game of the show. I wanted to be very accurate with the fact that Mickey Cohen rises to prominence as the head of the LA mob very much around the time or not too long later William Parker rises to the head of the LAPD.
Suddenly, you've got these two guys who are running their shops, top of the show in their worlds, and their worlds conflict. Really fascinating set up for storytelling and John Buntin really delineated that so beautifully in his book.
Mob City premieres on Wednesday, December 4 on TNT.
(Image courtesy of TNT)