From Frank Darabont, the new TNT drama series Mob City depicts the epic battle between a determined police chief and a dangerous mobster, in 1940s Los Angeles. Based on the critically acclaimed book L.A. Noir by John Buntin, the story follows Det. Joe Teague (Jon Bernthal), who has been assigned to a new mob task force headed by Det. Hal Morrison (Jeffrey DeMunn), as part of the crusade by Los Angeles Police Chief William Parker (Neal McDonough) to free the city of criminals like Ben “Bugsy” Siegel (Ed Burns) and Mickey Cohen (Jeremy Luke), and to stop the corruption in his own police force.
At the show’s press day, actor Milo Ventimiglia (who plays mob fixer Ned Stax) spoke to Collider for this exclusive interview about how he came to be a part of the show, getting used to such stylistic and specific dialogue, collaborating with someone as talented as Frank Darabont, just how grey Ned Stax is, and where his character could go, if there is a Season 2. Check out what he had to say after the jump, and be aware that there are some spoilers.
MILO VENTIMIGLIA: Deb Aquila, the casting director, brought me in to go on tape for Frank [Darabont]. And as I understand it, he said, “Who the fuck is this guy?!” And then, by a very nice coincidence, Mike De Luca, who’s producing, is a personal friend of mine and we’ve also developed shows together, so he knew me. So, when Frank said to De Luca, “Who’s this guy?,” Du Luca went, “Oh, this is who he is!” It was a very quick journey to get to the end. I was looking at a lot of different shows, but this was the one that I read that made me think, “Oh, this is so beautiful. I want to be a part of this.”
Because it is so stylistic and specific, did this kind of dialogue come easily for you?
VENTIMIGLIA: Not at first. It was tough. The first really long scene that I had, it took a minute to get the cadence of that, as Frank wrote it. We all knew it was very important to him, and I knew it was important, so I wanted to honor the words that he’d written, in the way that he wrote them. So, it took me a minute, but then, right when that switch happened, and I was sitting there in the clothes and in the moment with a cigarette in my hand, talking about things of the era, it just all made sense and it became so easy. More than 50% of the actor’s work are the words. If the words are there, then it makes our job so much easier. So, it took a minute, but when it settled in, it was very easy.
What’s it like to work with Frank Darabont?
VENTIMIGLIA: It’s scary, at first. I’m a fanboy. The Shawshank Redemption is one of my Top 5 favorite movies with Goodfellas and The Godfather I and II, and a couple that I know people would hate me for, like Armageddon and Miami Vice. It’s just one of those movies where you’re like, “Man, this guy is such an artist with his words and his cinematic vision.” So, it was a little terrifying. The fan in me was like, “Wow, I hope he likes me. I hope I fit in. I hope he’s a nice guy.” And what I found, being on set and spending more and more time with him, was that he really, really gave a shit about all of us, gave a shit about the work, and he was, at moments, scared himself, but it never showed. I think every artist, no matter what the medium is – whether you’re a painter, a musician or an actor – you question yourself. There are always those moments.
When Frank would hand over the script, he’d wait to see what we thought. I’d be like, “Frank, this is amazing!,” and he’d say, “Oh, you liked it?” And I’d be like, “Yeah, motherfucker, I loved it!” I really got to know Frank and see that he was just as excited about what we were all doing together, even though it was his inception. He’s the first one with the material and with the characters, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t let us take ownership, as well. That was a nice, refreshing change. I was able to discover the character and bring things to him and say, “Frank, I think that this is maybe who the guy is and where he comes from.” And he’d be like, “That’s a great idea,” and then expand on it. It was better than I could have expected.
VENTIMIGLIA: I made an assumption, but I had to actually ask Frank, “Just how grey is Ned Stax?” He’s a dark shade of grey. He’s a guy that is more in league with his bosses in the crime syndicate, but yet he has this history of brotherhood with Joe Teague (Jon Bernthal), given what they went through in the war together. I’ve always enjoyed playing a darker character than a lighter character or a hopeful character, but there was a good balance of both of those in who this guy is, even though he leans toward the bad side.
Will you get into how Ned Stax ended up in the position that he’s in?
VENTIMIGLIA: Not yet. But Frank has said that, going into a second season, we’d explore that a lot more. There’s a little nod to it, by Episode 6. If you catch it, you’ll know where he comes from. If you miss it, then you’ll have to wait until we spell it out for you. Ned’s a slow burn. In the pilot, he’s a shadow. He’s a tie. He’s a pair of flashy shoes. That’s what he is. And then, at the very end, it’s revealed, “Oh, this is the guy who orchestrated all of that. He’s the reason why the blackmailer found the cop, the cop did this, and that happened. It’s all because this guy set it in motion for his bosses. This guy was the one that orchestrated everything.” That’s what I like about it. There’s always a big question mark about Ned Stax.
The finale of Mob City airs on TNT on December 18th.