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 Neal McDonough talked about shooting Mob City right after his season on Justified, why the mini-series format works best for a show like this, how challenging the stylistic dialogue was, working with this great cast, the type of research he did, and the insight he was given for where his character would go in a possible Season 2. Check out what he had to say after the jump, and be aware that there are some spoilers.
NEAL McDONOUGH: This fell, amazingly, just after Justified had aired. It was maybe a month or two after that, and I got the call to audition for Parker. I said, “Wait a second, I just played the most despicable man on television last year, and they want me to play the ultimate good guy? Okay!” For Michael Wright and Frank Darabont to cast me as the ultimate good guy and Eddie Burns as the ultimate bad guy, and really switching roles from what we usually play, is pretty awesome. That generally doesn’t happen, but TNT is a horse of a different color. Michael Wright is so smart and really knows the product that he wants to put out there. He wants that product to be different from everything else and really shine. I think what they’re doing with this show, in particular, is just that. It’s very exciting! He’s going against the grain, and I think the pay-off will be pretty awesome. It’s not just a mob show. There’s romance, there’s drama, there are hysterical moments, there are really dark moments, there’s great action, there are good guys and bad guys, and everybody looks so great in the 1940s outfits. There’s a lot of eye candy on this show. Plus, you get the words of Frank Darabont and his direction on screen, in a six-hour mini-series. That’s just awesome!
Why does the mini-series format work best for a show like this?
McDONOUGH: Mini-series are my favorite medium to act in because it’s the right amount of pages you shoot a day, it’s the right amount of time that you’re with a character, and they really advertise it a lot, so that people get excited for this epic event. Like with Band of Brothers and Tin Man, those were two big, epic event mini-series that I did before, and this is going to be one of them. I hope they keep this format, for years to come. Six to eight hours a year, every year, at Christmastime would be great. [My wife] Ruve and I are having our fifth kid, and I certainly don’t have time to be hooked to a show. It’s just too daunting. For this, you can DVR it and sit for six hours and watch it, or do it in two sittings. That makes it a whole lot easier. And it’s just great to watch. It’s really fantastic!
Because it is so stylistic and specific, did this kind of dialogue come easily for you?
McDONOUGH: I don’t think it came easy for anyone. It’s such rapid-fire dialogue that, if you don’t say it right and you don’t say it at that clip, it doesn’t sound right. I speak slowly, by nature. So, to get up there and really over-caffeinate my speech pattern was interesting. At times, when it was just me and one of my men, where I was having a heart-to-heart, it was different. But in front of the guys, it was snap, snap, snap. It was really great. Once you get the hang of it, it’s a lot of fun.
McDONOUGH: They were awesome! There’s such camaraderie on this show. It’s a real team effort. Frank is the team leader, but he doesn’t believe he’s any more important than a grip on the show. It’s the team. Because it’s the team, we all work really hard to make sure that we brought it, on every take, and even when we aren’t on camera. If someone is carrying something, you help them carry it. We’re all in it together. That’s the key to making this a success.
Is this something that you did a lot of research for, to learn about this time period and era, or does being on these sets really help you get into the right mind-set?
McDONOUGH: It helps to be on the sets because you’re looking at everyone in fedoras and great suits. With Parker, there isn’t a biography written about him, so it was all what was said in Buntin’s book and other historical books, but it didn’t really tell you who Parker was. And then, Gene Roddenberry based Spock on Parker. That really sold it. So, he was such a great guy, and he was going to get the greatest city on earth’s police force on the straight and narrow. He got rid of everybody, when he was chief, and hired his guys that he went to Normandy with. That didn’t go well here, but he was going to clean up the force. And then, with all the pressure, his alcoholism really started to hit. He had a black and white idealistic view of Los Angeles, but he lived in a grey area. For me, as an actor, that’s a fun part to play. And then, next season, if hopefully there is a next season, you’ll find out that some of the guys you thought were good aren’t, and what Parker had to do to them and how that weighs on his soul. It’s pretty amazing to jump into a character like this that people know, but don’t really know so much about.
McDONOUGH: Yeah, Frank and I basically discussed where Parker will go. With Parker, it’s a little more easy because we know exactly what happened to him. You can chronologically go in order of what he did in his career because he’s a real character, and we really stay the path of the truth with his character. Some of the other characters that are fictitious can go in different ways, but we know what goes on with him. Later on, Chief Gates became the chief, but he was Parker’s driver and he used to get Parker out of his office at 5 o’clock, smashed, pour him into his Plymouth and drop him off at his home. And then, he would just stay at home all night and drink with his best friend, his wife. The next morning, you would never know it. No one ever knew he had a drinking problem. And then, finally, one day, Mickey Cohen called him Whiskey Bill, and he stopped drinking on the spot because he knew who he was and what he needed to do. It was pretty incredible.
The season finale of Mob City airs on TNT on December 18th.