I'm out in Los Angeles now, interviewing people about the summer and fall TV shows. That involves some OK ones, a few awful ones ... and, occasionally, a great one. One of the best is "The Divide," which debuts Wednesday and reruns often. Here's the story I sent to papers:
By MIKE HUGHES
LOS ANGELES -- When it comes to law and order, Tony Goldwyn
figures his views were sort of standard. “I assumed that if you are put in
prison, you probably did something pretty wrong.”
Then he made the movie “Conviction” …. which led to a
remarkable new series called “The Divide” … which could lead to the reshaping
of the WE cable channel.
Yes, WE – formerly Women’s Entertainment, originally Romance
Classics, often home of “Bridezillas.” Now it has a richly layered drama series
about lawyers trying to free men on Death Row.
Neither of the show’s producers – Goldwyn and
Oscar-nominated writer Richard LaGravenese – recall having ever seen a WE show.
“But I’d never seen FX before ‘The Shield.’” La Gravenese said. “I’d never seen
AMC before ‘Mad Men.’” The AMC people (who own WE) want another transformation.
By family tradition, this should be natural for Goldwyn. One
grandfather (Samuel Goldwyn) ran MGM, the other (Sidney Howard) won a Pulitzer
Prize and wrote the “Gone With the Wind” screenplay. Goldwyn’s father (Samuel
Jr.) propelled art films with his theaters and movie company. Tony spent large
chunks of his boyhood watching movie classics with his older brother John, who
John would run Paramount and produce “Dexter”; Tony
resisted. He’s an actor (the “Scandal” president) and director. “The only
reason I wanted to be a producer of something was to protect it,” he said.
One of those was “Conviction,” a 2010 movie with the true
story of a young mother who put herself through law school, so she could help
get her brother a new murder trial. That led him to Barry Scheck and The
Innocence Project, which now lists 317 convicts it has helped exonerate.
There is strong drama here, Goldwyn decided, rippling through
the families of the victims and the convicted. LaGravenese – who has
nominations for an Oscar (“The Fisher King”) and Emmy (“Behind the Candelabra”)
– agreed: “The Innocence Project is really very fertile ground to do character
They created a story and Scheck suggested switching the
races: Members of a prosperous black family were killed and two white men were
arrested. Amid talk of unequal justice, there were fears of a riot; a young,
black prosecutor got convictions and the death sentence. Now – as he prepares
his race for governor -- an intense intern is convinced those are wrong.
This is a deeply layered character, a convict’s daughter who
is living with a tough (and sensitive) cop. “She’s studying to become a lawyer
and doesn’t like the law,” Goldwyn said.
That role went to actress Marin Ireland, who then spent a
month at the Innocence Project. “It looked and felt different than any other
legal atmosphere I’d ever seen on television or in a movie,” she said.
It’s a place of shared spaces and shared emotions, she said.
“A big cheer would go up across the room and then the whole room would kind of
cheer.” But there were also constant setbacks on life-and-death issues. “People
(said) you have to go outside … and walk it off.”
This became the backdrop for “The Divide,” which will spend
its first, eight-week season on this one case. Goldwyn directed and co-wrote
the opener; he isn’t acting in it, but he is re-joining the family tradition: “This
is the first time that I really loved producing.”
“The Divide,” 9 p.m. Wednesdays, WE, beginning
Opener reruns at 10:50 p.m. and at 12:50 and
2:55 a.m. It’s then shown at 8 p.m. Saturday, 4 p.m. Sunday and 7 p.m. July 23,
leading into the second episode.