Talent comes in individual packages, but together they are dynamite. George Pelecanos he used to present himself as a writer, an accurate and logical description if one takes into account his detective stories (Stephen King himself described him as the best living American author in this literary genre). david simonMeanwhile, he was distinguished decades ago as a journalist: investigating and reporting on criminal cases in his adopted city, Baltimore, earned him a well-deserved reputation, confirmed later by a few books by non -fiction focused on the unholy activities of drug traffickers. , criminals and police in the city of the state of Maryland. When George met David, the latter had already begun the vice of creating and producing series, but nothing suggested that Thread He would eventually become one of the spearheads of the series’ new golden age. Released in 2002, the saga created by Simon and written, among others, by Pelecanos continues to be today one of the standards against which the narrative qualities of a serial production intended for television or streaming platforms.
“Anyway, noblesse oblige, when we started working on writing the first chapters of Thread, The Sopranos it had already managed to become a hit. They were the first,” said David Simon in an interview with members of the international press, in which he took part. page 12. The conversation will inevitably return to this series which, over five seasons broadcast between 2004 and 2008, opened the eyes of millions of viewers accustomed to the format offering them moderate virtues, at least compared to its big brother, the cinema. Simon and Pelecanos are making their debut again, having collaborated over the past decade on two other must-have series: Treme (2010-2013), on the reconstruction of a neighborhood in New Orleans after the disaster caused by Hurricane Katrina, and The devil (2017-2019), about a group of marginalized New Yorkers in the 70s and early 80s. Again with the giant seal HBO, parent company of the duo’s projects, The city is ournail six-episode miniseries that will not have a second seasondebuts today monday at 22 and It will be available on the HBO Max platform.
It is a return to basics, in more ways than one. Based on the investigative book by Justin Fenton – another police section reporter who served in that role in the same newsroom inhabited by David Simon decades ago, that of the Baltimore Sun–, We own this town rebuilt with elements of fiction the real case of an elite police force which, behind the facade of law and orderbecame an illicit association dedicated to fraud, extortion and theft of weapons, drugs and money. “It was wonderful to come back to Baltimore to film the show,” George Pelecanos said at the start of the virtual Q&A. “Since those years of Thread that we maintain good relations with the community. It was not uncommon for neighbors to come and chat with us during filming. And we always listen to them, because they usually have interesting things to say.
The real case that depicts The city is our It is very close in time to the event that shook Baltimore’s foundations in 2015: the death of Freddie Gray, a young black man arrested for alleged possession of a knife who died in police custody. Jon Berntal is responsible for bringing Wayne Jenkins to life on screen, the leader of the Gun Trace Task Force (GTTF), a unit dedicated to stopping the proliferation of guns on city streets patiently and tenaciously repurposed into a dedicated organization to crime, although protected by the political forces of Baltimore thanks to its apparent effectiveness in lowering the rates of violent acts. The cast includes Jamie Hectorwho in Thread knew how to play a drug dealer and is now a homicide detective, the actress Wunmi Mosaku Yes Josh Charlesthe only one of the cast hailing from Baltimore (whose film debut was over three decades ago in hair spraydirector John Waters’ feature, another Baltimorean thoroughbred).
“Some of the neighbors who came to talk to us told us that they knew these guys, the police,” continues Pelecanos. “That they had been stolen. Baltimore has many problems, but its citizens are proud and not giving up on their efforts to make the city a better place to live. David Simon nods in the affirmative on the other small screen of the videoconference and adds that, when he was producing his first series there, homicide, in the late 90s, “there was a 14-year-old boy who came to see how we were shooting an episode on the street.” “I remember the director of that episode was Kathy Bates, the famous actress. Now this guy is 40 years old and he worked in the wardrobe department of The city is our. This is what favors the fact of working in the same place: something that resembles a family is formed. It’s like being at home.”
-How have things changed in Baltimore since the days of ThreadFor better and for worse ?
DavidSimon: -Well, there were times when they took a few steps forward and times when they took a step back. Obama, in his second term, made certain decisions regarding the Department of Justice that attempted to minimize the negative effects of the so-called “War on Drugs.” In particular, mass incarceration. A bill for new legislation that Republicans ultimately torpedoed. The problem is that the United States is a very divided country and we can’t agree on how to act, and the toughest positions are usually the ones that get the most votes, especially in some States. But even some Democrats weighed in on it: Some criminal laws Clinton passed while in office have done more damage than anything Richard Nixon has done in the past. In Baltimore, with Trump, we had a hardening of policies, which allowed a person to be incarcerated even for possession of marijuana.
-How do you see the role of Thread at the time of revolutionizing the format of the series as it was defined twenty years ago?
George Pelecanos: – Let’s say we didn’t see it that way when it started airing (laughs). Thread It didn’t start off as a ratings success, quite the contrary. The first two years were a constant struggle for David to stay on the air. Eventually, the series caught on, not just locally but internationally. I think with The Sopranos, we were part of a wave, even if at that time we could not imagine it. Simply, every day we pushed a big stone to make a good program. The success took us by surprise. Personally, I think I have understood the importance of Thread at the end of the second season. That’s when we thought “wow, looks like we’re doing something serious”.
SOUTH DAKOTA: -I think it was the perfect time for the show to get a little more serious. Cable had already gotten rid of the need to have commercials every fifteen minutes, which allowed for more complex stories and structures. You have to think that until then even the best series had a unitary format, without precise chapter-by-chapter continuity. Many people realized at the same time that more complex, more adult stories could finally be told.
generalist: -At the same time, films have also changed, increasingly limited by the concept of blockbuster, franchisees. The movies we’ve admired since the 70s are almost out of production. I think if Sidney Lumet were alive today, he would be making series, because none of his movie projects would be greenlit.
-How did you become interested in Justin Fenton’s book and how difficult was it to create a fictional story from a research text?
SOUTH DAKOTA: -I live in Baltimore, so I used to read Fenton’s articles when they appeared in the newspaper. At a certain point, the scandal of these policemen was so big, so deep, that I took his phone and called him to suggest that he take a break and write a book based on all this. And so it was, although I really didn’t imagine at the time that it could be material for a series. It was George who pushed this idea.
generalist: -It’s like that. An HBO executive called me and said that would be a good idea. I knew the story, of course, but the book hadn’t been published yet. They sent me the manuscript, I read it and immediately told them that I was interested, but on one condition: that I could work with my usual team and, of course, with David Simon. It was karmic that we were able to end up in Baltimore with so many people who had worked in Thread. But it wasn’t fast, everything I just said happened four years ago. And I have to say that beyond the obvious issues, the pandemic has allowed us to stop the ball rolling and investigate further. All the scripts were done when we started shooting, which is not that common. It was like shooting a six hour movie, albeit divided into chapters.
SOUTH DAKOTA: -Concerning the adaptation, it must be understood that the scenario must be interpreted by actors. What we did structurally was spend time describing where each character came from, which the book doesn’t need to do. This is why the series goes back and forth in time, from the origins of the anti-weapons department to the present of the corruption investigation. I think the real story is somehow turned into a tragedy, where you can see the whole journey of the protagonist, from his time as a cadet to his downfall. And how he learns the bad things and forgets the good ones, teaching his younger assistants the same way. Fenton’s book is a journalistic chronicle, the series is a tragic drama.