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 Gregory Itzin (who plays Mayor Fletcher Bowron, a charismatic politician looking to eliminate corruption in the LAPD) spoke to Collider for this exclusive interview about how exciting it was to be offered this role, what kind of man his character is, how the stylistic dialogue took some adjustment for him, being a part of this terrific cast, and the research he did for his role. He also talked about how much fun it’s been to play the despicable Henry Wilcox on Covert Affairs. Check out what he had to say after the jump.
GREGORY ITZIN: This came about while I was shooting Covert Affairs, and I knew I was locked in until the end of the season because they had said as much. My agents got a call and offered me the role. That was pretty exciting! I was [recently] asked about how 24 changed my life, and I get offers now. Not always, but occasionally I do, and this came along that way. They said, “Would you like to play Fletcher Bowron?” I said, “Who?” And then, I was told about who it was and that it was on Frank Darabont’s new series. So, they had to work out the schedule for both things, and I was able to come on board.
What kind of man is Fletcher Bowron?
ITZIN: I won’t say he’s a do-gooder, but he does good things. He is a former judge who gets talked into running for mayor, and takes over for a corrupt mayor. He’s the second longest running mayor in L.A., behind Tom Bradley, who came in later. He really had a hand in cleaning up L.A., along with the cops. He cared about stuff, like public housing. At the same time, you look at him and go, “He’s morally suspect.” He supported the incarceration of the Japanese during World War II, which can be looked at as being a patriot. But, he’s not totally a good guy. Politicians are all deal-makers. It’s always, “How can I do this the best way?” That’s what makes it fun.
As the mayor, did you have much interaction with the characters on the show, or was your interaction pretty limited?
ITZIN: The mayor is so far up the food chain that he talks to the chief of police, and that’s pretty much it. He’s got enough on his plate, being mayor. I don’t know that he has time to deal with all the inner-workings of things.
Because it is so stylistic and specific, did this kind of dialogue come easily for you?
ITZIN: No, to be perfectly honest with you. It’s just chatter, but there’s a certain way of saying it. You’ve also gotta get to it. You have to bring it together and dive in. I didn’t come in until they were shooting the body of the show. I had to come in and fill in my stuff in the pilot. I talked to Neal [McDonough] and said, “Is this dialogue hard?,” and he said, “Yeah, but don’t worry about it.” It doesn’t fit well in the mouth until you’ve done it awhile.
ITZIN: I think the show gathers traction, as it goes along and as the background information is filled in. It lets you come along, at your own pace. And then, you can also go back and look at it again.
What’s it been like to collaborate with Frank Darabont on this?
ITZIN: I can’t tell you, really. I didn’t, that much. The one scene that I had, that he directed, I could ask him about. But, I don’t know what’s going on in his head, except that he’s a very excitable man. He loves what he does, very much, and that’s always a joy. You can see despots in directors, so to see a man who genuinely enjoys the people he works with and the project, joy rather than fear is a good place to work from.
What’s it been like to be a part of this terrific cast?
ITZIN: I’ve enjoyed watching their work on the episodes. The only one I really worked with was Neal, and I’d worked with him before. That was really nice, coming onto the set and having a familiar face. I’m looking forward to working with the other people, but I haven’t really worked with them yet.
Did you do much research into this era?
ITZIN: I did some, but I didn’t have that much time. I got cast, and then I was in front of the camera. But what I had time to do was study up on Fletcher Bowron, to a certain degree, and what he did. There’s a whole other book about him and his contribution and what he did in the city that I’ve got, but haven’t read yet. Why are we interested in this period? The bad guys are iconic heroes. Capone and Bugsy Siegel are larger than life. If you make a good series about them, it interests everybody.
ITZIN: So much fun, and it got more fun as the season went on. At first, I didn’t know where it was going. They gave me information in small amounts. I’d say, “How am I supposed to do this?,” and they’d say, “Just do it, Greg! Just own the information and act like you know what you’re talking about.” And then, I’d find out an episode or two later what I’d actually be doing in that scene.
Is it more fun to play a bad guy who enjoys being a bad guy?
ITZIN: Yeah! I had to have fun with it. I’m amazed at how many people he has in his employ, that I didn’t know, and people that were supposed to be his best friends, that I didn’t know until after the scenes were shot.
The season finale of Mob City airs on TNT on December 18th.