Falco back to TV in ‘Me­nen­dez Mur­ders’

Orlando Sentinel - - PEOPLE & ARTS - By Greg Brax­ton greg­brax­ton@la­times.com

In 1989, Edie Falco paid lit­tle at­ten­tion to the sen­sa­tional mur­der case dom­i­nat­ing the head­lines in­volv­ing the wealthy Me­nen­dez fam­ily.

“The case was in the back­ground of my life,” says Falco, when asked about the na­tional fas­ci­na­tion with the bru­tal Beverly Hills, Calif., liv­ing room slay­ings of en­ter­tain­ment ex­ec­u­tive Jose Me­nen­dez and his wife, Mary Louise “Kitty” Me­nen­dez. The sus­pects were their sons, Lyle and Erik, who were 21 and 18, re­spec­tively, at the time of the mur­ders.

“There were other things to think about, and there were not 7,000 chan­nels at the time,” says the Brook­lyn na­tive. Her dis­tracted im­pres­sion was that it was just “a cou­ple of bratty kids that killed their rich par­ents.”

But the case has moved to the front line of Falco’s char­ac­ter gallery as the ac­claimed ac­tress, who scored back-to-back tri­umphs with her Em­my­win­ning roles on “The So­pra­nos” and “Nurse Jackie,” stars in NBC’s “Law & Or­der True Crime: The Me­nen­dez Mur­ders,” pre­mier­ing Sept. 26.

Falco plays no-non­sense de­fense at­tor­ney Les­lie Abram­son in the eight-episode se­ries, which in­tro­duces a non­fic­tion ex­ten­sion to the brand cre­ated by Dick Wolf. The pro­ducer hopes the project is the first of many that can use the “L&O” for­mula to re­ex­am­ine high-pro­file crimes such as the Hill­side Stran­gler and Son of Sam.

“There are so many of these cases I want to know a lot more about,” Wolf said. The Me­nen­dez se­ries will fea­ture some “Law & Or­der” hall­marks: the color­ful open­ing logo and the “chung chung” be­tween scenes.

“You have to ap­peal to your base,” Wolf said with a chuckle. “I’m us­ing ev­ery com­fort zone for my au­di­ence.”

The docu­d­rama also marks the lat­est in a stream of Hol­ly­wood projects that re­flect the on­go­ing in­ter­est in the scan­dalous mur­ders, which cen­tered on whether the Me­nen­dez broth­ers were cold-blooded mur­der­ers or vic­tims of hor­rific child abuse who killed their par­ents to es­cape tor­ment. (The broth­ers were sen­tenced to life in prison in 1996.)

Among the var­i­ous Me­nen­dez projects were Life­time’s June film “Me­nen­dez: Blood Broth­ers,” which fea­tured Court­ney Love as Kitty Me­nen­dez, and two sep­a­rate made-for-TV movies in 1994.

The “Law & Or­der” ver­sion is the first to po­si­tion Abram­son as the cen­tral char­ac­ter, and it plans to of­fer a more ex­ten­sive ex­am­i­na­tion of the killings.

Ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer and showrun­ner Rene Bal­cer be­lieves the broth­ers were un­fairly treated by what he called a cor­rupt jus­tice sys­tem.

“These guys never should have been sen­tenced to life with­out pa­role,” Bal­cer said. “They were over­charged and over­sen­tenced. They were abused kids who killed their abusers.”

Al­though she had lit­tle in­ter­est at the time, Falco said she was at­tracted to the se­ries by the com­pli­cated dy­nam­ics.

“Things are never what they seem,” the ac­tress said on lo­ca­tion in Pasadena.

Lesli Linka Glat­ter (“Home­land”), who di­rected the first two episodes and also serves as an ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer, said she was con­tin­u­ally im­pressed by Falco’s per­for­mance.

“Edie is an amaz­ing ac­tress, and she can­not lie,” said Glat­ter. “When she takes on a role, she gets fully in­side a char­ac­ter.”


Edie Falco plays Les­lie Abram­son, at­tor­ney for the Me­nen­dez broth­ers, who were con­victed of killing their par­ents.

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