Writer, director trades zombies for mobsters on L.A. noir drama
LOS ANGELES — On a balmy midsummer evening at Griffith Park, a game of TV cops and mobsters is afoot. Guns are holstered, trench coats are cinched and bruises are being smudged onto actors. And then, in mock dramatic fashion, Frank Darabont steps out of the shadows on the set of his 1940s L.A. noir drama Mob City and lights a cigarette. “Time to play,” said the 54-year-old writer and executive producer of the upcoming series, which has its Canadian premiere Dec. 4 on Bravo. “We want people to dig this show.” He’s not the only one. For its U.S.cable home, TNT, which has largely trafficked in middle-brow crime procedurals, sitcoms and reality programs, the new mob drama with an enviable pedigree among its creative talent represents a bold gambit into the world of prestige drama — the kind that draws widespread critical acclaim, enhances a network’s standing and garners award nominations. Success may even be more important to Darabont, who in the mob-speak of The Godfather films, would like to send a message to his former employers at AMC, whom he now publicly refers to as “sociopaths.” Two years ago, the basic cable network unceremoniously booted Darabont from The Walking Dead, a powerhouse show he had developed for television and for which he had served as show runner. “I needed a good experience after the last one,” said Darabont, most famous for directing a pair of prison dramas, The Green Mile and The Shawshank Redemption. “I had plenty of bad feelings about doing TV again. But look, a horse tramples you, you can get back on the horse and ride some more, or you decide you’re never going to ride again.” Mob City is loosely based on John Buntin’s nonfiction book L.A. Noir, which focuses on the tumult swirling producer Michael De Luca, who had optioned the book, and now, the work is finally coming to light. With elaborate production values, the TV show certainly takes its cues from the era and makes full use of noir staples: shadows, voice-overs, and mood-setting jazz music. Naturally, there’s a conflicted hero, Joe Teague (Jon Bernthal, a Walking Dead alum), a cop who walks a crooked line between good and bad.
Jon Bernthal plays a cop who walks a fine line between good and bad on Mob City.