Date of publishing: 7th
The show follows the exploits of four young, working-class
Irish-American brothers and their involvement in organized
crime in New York City. The Donnelly brothers will
do anything to protect each other against all odds.
The ensemble cast includes Kirk Acevedo, Thomas Guiry,
Billy Lush, Keith Nobbs, Michael Stahl-David, Jonathan
Tucker and Olivia Wilde. The pilot was directed by
Haggis, who also wrote the Academy Award-winning “Million
Dollar Baby.” Haggis and Moresco are the creators
and executive producers.
The series is a production of NBC Universal Television
Studio in association with Blackfriars Bridge Productions.
This is the full report from the NBC press conference.
Media World was there to cover the event.
won the Academy Award, was there any reservation about
going back to television where you guys started?
Paul Haggis: Well, because we figured
we never won the second won, so, we should get back
and the way we love it, it’s going good. Right,
Bobby Moresco: Exactly. Here you
go. Haggis isn’t planning one in case you guys
haven’t figured that out. He never let me forget.
You know, Paul is speaking for both us. If I may,
I think both of us love this show… if ever we’re
going to go back to TV, it would have been for this.
Paul Haggis: Yeah, it was something
that Bobby and I really love to play and something
we wrote, which in 1996, and we had the opportunity
to do it. When Kevin gave that opportunity, we both
jumped on it.
Bobby Moresco: Exactly, we never
So when you were watching
the Oscar’s ten years ago, did you ever think
you’d be up on that stage last year?
Paul Haggis: No, no.
Bobby Moresco: I thought Haggis
would, but he never thought he see me with him.
Paul Haggis: No, not a chance. We
never get a movie made, never mind, any sort of recognition…
or that anyone would like it.
a lot of times you described having grown up in the
Hell’s Kitchen, and I wonder if you just elaborate
on that a little bit, because I don’t know if
I should envision like Martin’s Scorsese if
he talks about being like a sickly kid watching the
violent thug out his window, and I don’t know
if it’s that case or if it’s the case
where you are very much involved, you’re a lot
like the Donnelly kid. If you kind of tell me a little
bit more about your childhood and what point you thought
you hit this more of this story in here.
Bobby Moresco: Well, first of all,
I want to make it clear that this is not a biography.
This started out with Haggis and I, me sharing stories
with Paul when we’re doing Easy Streets about
what looks like growing up, we created a fictional
world, that to be made clear too. But having said
that, sure, I wasn’t the Martin’s Scorseses
story, I was one of those guys who are out in the
streets. I had four - five brothers growing up.
Well, my dad was a Longshoreman, my mom’s family
was in construction, and all those people that you
guys read about were friends and family back then.
And I spent a lot of my life trying to understand
how people that you love and respect and honor can
do monstrous thing to become monster who then we’ll
be the people that you thought you love. And that’s
just a strange psychognomy to try to get hold of it.
All I go is able to pull that kind of stuff out of
anyone because he’s a great writer. Together,
I thought we found the great fictional world and fictional
setting and a lot of fictional characters that are
based in real life, and things would happen.
you said before, you started writing the spec in ’96,
that’s when Easy Streets was going. Was this
something that was Rachel Nagus pitched the CBS?
Paul Haggis: Yeah, this is a follow-up
to Easy Streets, and it was something that we’re
going to do then and it was right after Easy Streets
failed. And then all those guys realized to hold on,
they just cancelled the show. What the hell am I -
rightly so. And it was something we tried to do with
CBS over the years, and it just wasn’t a fit
for them, and we sort of gave up trying about five
And obviously, this shares
is of number of systematic elements with that. In
what ways have you sort of learned from that experience
that -- you know how much I love Easy Streets -- but
in what ways have you - other than obviously you’re
cloud now, are you trying to make it work more for
Paul Haggis: I don’t think
we learned the damn thing.
Bobby Moresco: I know that I didn’t.
Paul Haggis: I mean, I did - at
the time, we were told, “Don’t you
guys get it? No one wants to see a continuing story
over 24 episodes.” And we said, “Okay,
“and we went off, and then, of course, 24 hits,
and a lot of other shows, and now, people say, “Don’t
you get it? That’s the only thing people want
is that this is for 24 episodes.”
So we didn’t learn the damn thing, I think we
just, maybe had a little more freedom, we had the
freedom to cast kids who are - were relatively known
now. When we manage that through time, casting actors,
which we would have been ashamed because, we don’t
get a lot of named actors for 21, 22 years old.
“Ice Cream” -- I’ve seen the five
longer it goes on, the less there is of sort of him
as the unreliable narrator. Was that something you
sort of eased back on after a while or just sort of
hard to pull off…
week in and week out?
Paul Haggis: It’s just, when
you get a lot of writers working on stuff, it just
sometimes that things, - some things get the forefront
and some things, get pushed back. But I don’t
see, it was not a plan and I think…
Bobby Moresco: …that as the
series goes on, he becomes unreliable again so…
a very sort of cinematic television show, and I just
thought maybe you could talk a little bit about, what
you can do in a TV show that you can’t do in
a movie and just the way in which you’re sort
of blurring the lines between movie and television
here in this show. It seems…
Paul Haggis: Yeah. I don’t
think - I guess, I’ll talk to Bobby for a second.
But I don’t think we treat them differently.
I directed this thing exactly as if ever been movie
or television. It’s just shot a little faster.
But not that much faster, I think more time to shoot
that in Crash on hour and hour basis. We’re
just trying to tell a good story. And, I mean, back
when I was doing, with a lot of other television shows,
people in N.Y. direct them, people, could go, “You
know, you really should be doing movies.”
And it wasn’t a complement. They’re just
trying to get rid of me. But I just sort of, - I mean,
and then the nice thing is that NBC is really supportive
with that. We do, a scene in the Pilot in which all
shots ... It’s very important scene and these
two figures in silhouette tiny figures discussing
it and… never cut in, and it’s the stuff
they usually they want to feature. But we did that,
and I fully thought I get to see network notes in
frankly where the close-ups, and they never seen those
It’s interesting as
well because, I mean, this is kind of an R-rated movie,
I mean, it isn’t…
but it is. I mean, thematically and emotionally and
so it has an intensity and just - and so that must
be an interesting process to like, well, what can
we do and how can we do it to, stay true to what we’re
trying to do, and but not have, blow over into objectionable
Paul Haggis: Yeah, it’s a
real line to walk. And Bobby learned to walk that
every week in more sort of than I. I mean, because
Bobby was responsible for getting a lot of the scripts
going on once he got first a few done. And it’s
a tough line… You - Bobby, you want to speak
Bobby Moresco: No, that’s
a good question, you know, before that - I think it’s
the real mistake considering the fact that we sort
of write. I guess it’s a huge mistake in a policy
that think that you should approach the writing for
television differently than you might. You approach
everything the same in craft, the same amount of intensity,
and the same amount of need for character and plot
and story or may change a bit, but if anything else
changes, that’s the big mistake.
was wondering too in that Joey “Ice Cream.”
Given that he’s such a bullshit artist, is it
barely possible that he’s leading us -- the
audience -- incompletely wrong direction?
Paul Haggis: It’s more than
barely possible. I mean that’s - what we want
you to think is we want - as you go along, you want
to hold on, just disguise up, a pathological liar,
why are we believing him? It’s fascinating because
it’s something we want to explore and that’s
something you do explore a lot in movies and television.
In other ways, I remember with Million Dollar Baby,
the narrator who was a reliable narrator -- we - one
would think -- and then at the end of that, he said
that he hopes that Frankie found some piece, and then
as you go on, and it go - that would at least, the
movie go like, “You hope Frankie found some
peace.” I go, “No, no, the narrator
thought that that’s something he hoped.”
And so you seem to imbue areas with a lot, of the
audience instruction, so we want to really play with
So my concerns are valid.
Paul Haggis: Completely valid, okay?
Bobby Moresco: Yeah. But if I may
add to that, is this an emotional truth in the storytelling…
that isn’t played with you decide what it might
mean to you, but emotionally, we’re dealing
with something truthful in both character and the
Paul Haggis: And that’s what
we want to do exactly. We want to sometimes tell a
deeper truth than what was the factual truth for the
moment whether Joey “Ice Cream” was there
or not. He seems to know what’s going on inside
this - with this. But what are his motivations? I
mean, that’s something we certainly explore
to go along. And as you see - and especially since
we have a menace of limbo, you never really know -
and we purposely kept this, what’s the outcome
of the story and what’s - how is he damning
his friends, is he protecting his friends, you don’t
Bobby Moresco: Exactly. And, the
trick was an unreliable narrator. I think that the
audience should never feel cheated. They may feel
lied too, but if they feel they’re mostly cheated.
Paul Haggis: Yeah. Exactly. That’s
a good point, Bobby.
Now, a couple of family members
recently have seen sort of quick promos or heard the
title, and they, of course, naturally assumed first
of that it’s about the real Black Donnellys
which, obviously is one of the most, gruesome members
in Canadian history. I’m wondering about your
decision to use that as the title. And is that lost
on most of the audience down in the states?
Paul Haggis: That’s the first
title should be. I mean, there was an emotional truth
that, again, that we wanted to use that - when I told
Bobby the story of The Black Donnellys, we thought
that was intriguing. There were many themes. We want
to - obviously, you want to choose the title that
is not literal, and certainly, this one is. The original
title of this was actually "The Truth According
to Joey Ice-Cream"… that there was a one
thing Kevin thought was just a tad esoteric. And so,
I was like, “What else? What is it? What’s
we have, it’s called the The Donnellys,”
and we’d always thought of this and we’d
played with themes that came out of that massacre.
And so it was called The Black Donnellys. We thought
that sounds great. But, we - I mean, there was something
about the level of intolerance in that community…
and the fact that the bad folks were easily pointed
to and they said we could use the bad people and we
are the good people, and then the good people then
massacre the bad people that I thought, well, this
speaks to what we’re doing here because we’re
trying to play with - we’re asking you to empathize
with murderers, drug dealers in this. And then - but
then you were seeing, I think, as you go through,
this is definitely a tragedy that we’re telling.
This is just - you sort of have the - I think it pretty
much give the sense of doing from the first frame.
This will not going to end well for anybody, and so
- but how is it going to turn out. And that’s,
again, things we’re playing with.
Bobby Moresco: These characters
are in some way trying to save - he’s trying
to save that Tom is trying to save his brother; they’re
all trying to save someone and they’re trying
to - obviously, the community is part of that, and
will the community turning against them, we’ll
would you handicap your chances on Sunday night?
Bobby Moresco: Oh, I don’t.
I think it’s fabulous to be nominated, and that’s
many of the fights are going to be booze induced?
And do the brothers have a drink of choice?
Paul Haggis: Well, how many brothers
are booze induced. Well, Bobby - I guess, what, all
of them? No, that’s not the case. I mean, temper
flare constantly in this piece, the brothers are always,
beginning to fight with themselves or others. But
today, the drink of choice, Bobby?
Bobby Moresco: No, I don’t
think they do and I think they do, and I don’t
think we can point any. But Paul is absolutely right.
Sometimes booze is involved, sometimes booze isn’t
And also, for resource of
actors, they go to Ireland or mid of Irish pub or
Paul Haggis: No, they just drank
a lot. (laughter) No, they - no. They talk to Bobby,
and a lot. That’s what they did. And, Bobby
introduced them in some of his friends and staff,
and then, I mean, we create a fictional world so it
was - they really have to create their own lives.
It seems that you showed
the hybrid of your experiences growing up in New York
that - in a modern backdrop of New York. Do you ever
find a created challenge that envision to era? And
which generation are you aiming for, are you aiming
for the good solid generation or the entourage generation
in terms of your audience?
Bobby Moresco: That’s a good
question. The first question was it - or even asked
in earlier question in-depth, Haggis and I took a
lot of the experiences in characters that I knew growing
up and then turned them more inside out, and threw
them into the mix to create a fictional world of characters
in the story.
Paul Haggis: And for that reason,
we decided to create a fictional neighborhood, and
that you’ll see that, we views elements of Manhattan,
views elements of Queens, and Brooklyn, and made it
all look like one neighborhood. That seems very similar
to what we do with Easy Streets in which we took portions
in Detroit and Chicago and L.A., and made a city that
you couldn’t recognize that you just want to
stick to something that was dare and more interesting
to anyone, particularly, the neighborhood.
Bobby Moresco: …hopefully,
to the timeless piece. You shouldn't quite be sure
when it takes place. You just know it's contemporary,
at least, it was like epitope, but we want it to feel
universal, feel it timeless also.
I’m just wondering, you said you started to
think about the series in '96, and obviously, since
Paul Haggis: We wrote it in ’96.
did you start thinking about it then?
Paul Haggis: '96. I think as I know
with Bobby. I just met Bobby the year before. I done
written the pilot for Easy Streets and I was looking
for writers and someone recommended I look at Bobby,
and Deborah and I read his work and really liked it.
So he became my right hand on that series. And then,
as it was failing, we wanted to do something else.
And so - and I’ve been listening to his stories,
and “I’m going to - how can I steal
your life and would you like to do with me or not?”
Bobby Moresco: I was smart enough
to do with them, because I knew he’d do it without
just talking about like over the past few years, as
writers, you've approached a quite a few different
subject matters, whether it’s from in a racial
stuff that the box seems have now and all that stuff.
Can you talk a little bit about switching gears and
how, as a writer, you’re able to do that or
what you look for in a theme or kept you brings back
to certain stories?
Paul Haggis: I think we just look
for great stories, fabulous dilemmas, I mean, that
- and questions that are unanswerable, and we tried
to put our characters into situations where we wouldn't
want to be and then help them make choices that we
wouldn't ever want to make, and that’s we always
- and - just sort of a follow-up to present to the
whole idea of the show, why is it that you think that
the public that were so drawn to this mobster sort
of gang-based story? What is the common denominator
Paul Haggis: Oh, I don't know. Bob
- I mean, it’s - we're drawn to a lot of stories
and this is one where crime - I think there's - the
journey that these boys face, and what we like is
not obviously a mobster, but we like the idea of doing
of coming of age story within this sort of this world
where crime is the easiest way to make a living. And
that’s what appeal to us. Bobby, is there anything
Bobby Moresco: Yeah. I think that’s
absolutely correct. I think it’s a mistake to
think that somebody wants to draw and write a mobster
story. What you write about is people you care about
in situation that’s exactly emotionally and
they need to give you out of that, and these kids
did that for us, the pattern, the surface had deepened
it great to have this group of like young characters,
and then you can take them so many other places because
of the age and the freshness of them?
Bobby Moresco: Oh, yeah, I think
that’s the most fun out of all it. Am I wrong,
Paul Haggis: I hate them. They make
me feel old and so - and fat…
Bobby Moresco: Exactly.
Paul Haggis: …and bald.
Bobby Moresco: Exactly.
Paul Haggis: It really is a lot
of fun because they’ll - they’re just
willing to trust and the actors will just jump in
and do things that anything we’re asking to
do and try, and that’s what you want as director,
as producer, as the writer, these people to just say,
“Okay, let’s just try that.”
They’re very brave.
Bobby Moresco: Yeah, it’s
Now, you also have a healthy
amount of more experienced actors like Kate Mulgrew
and Chris Bauer. How important is that for you to
counterpoint the young - the youthful stars with these
more experienced supporting actors?
Bobby Moresco: Oh, I don't even
think you think about that. You create a character
that serves the story and then you go from there.
I don't think we ever thought from the moment we saw
these guys in the audition process that weren’t
going to be to depend on. I mean, if they need “help”
in some way. These guys are terrific and…
Paul Haggis: Yeah. I mean, in assessing
- in the audition process - I mean, this is really
what you’re asking, but I’d like to answer
questions that weren’t asked. We were casting
these guys. And from the moment that Kevin and guys
involved were set to do this, I knew it was impossible,
we weren’t - we’re going to find these
group of kids, who were, appealing, who were good
actors, and who looked like they were of this neighborhood.
I just know what’s going to happen. So I went
away to Italy and I let Bobby do it. And so he and
Alexa Fogel and Mark Harris and Jeff King all sat
down and tried to cast this thing. And they emailed
me choices, and I looked at auditions over the internet.
It was great. In the end, very quickly, we found one
actor for each role who was just perfect, and we presented
that one actor for each role to the network and take
Kevin, and they’ve said "yeah" and
that was it. So usually - and that’s the same
thing what we’re looking for the adults. There
usually have two choices, I mean, in many good actors
but there’s always one actor who came in and
just embodied that role and whether that one was -
whether he had an - has a lot of experience or whether
they were, again fresh and unknown, we just said,
“That’s the person.” They’re
Bobby Moresco: Yeah, absolutely.
And to go along with that, Paul and I, we’re
really lucky enough and fortunate enough to have Kevin
in the Studio really supporting all the choices we’ve
Paul Haggis: Yeah, he was fabulous.
talking a little bit about how this could easily be
an R-Rated film as opposed to a TV series. What were
some of the challenges in adapting it for a Network
television where shows like Brotherhood and the Wire
and the Sopranos can really go for the gust there
Paul Haggis: I haven't seen the
Brotherhood, but the Wire is a magnificent show, it’s
a great show, it’s one of my favorite shows
in the television. It is obviously is always a challenge
with the language, but that was basically it. And
we weren't even challenged that much for it, Bobby?
Bobby Moresco: I don’t think
so, and that’s the case to be made that it helped.
Look, when you write a good poem, if you’re
writing a sonnet, you can stick to the form. If you’re
writing a Haiku, you can stick to the form. It serves
you to be more creative here.
Paul Haggis: Bobby, have you ever
written a good poem? What would you know?
Bobby Moresco: I’ve written
a lot of poems. But I think form, I’d be - being
constricted to form can be helpful.
Paul Haggis: Yeah. And just that
it was just a matter of - I mean, we got to tell all
the emotional truth - I was worried about that, I
got to tell you. I never thought that we would be
introducing this on network television. They’d
let us - they really gave us a lot of freedom, and
we tried to be responsible with that.
Bobby Moresco: Absolutely. With
the exception of curse words ...
Paul Haggis: But we used a lot of
curse words too, if then they were less aware of that.
It was things that, ten o'clock audience would, let’s
say, with this audience maybe pushing the boundaries,
but it's nothing we haven’t heard before badly.
Because Tom Guiry is from
New Jersey, I was wondering if you could talk a little
bit about what it was that made him so right for the
role of Jimmy?
Paul Haggis: He’s from New
Paul Haggis: Jesus, Bobby, you got
You wouldn’t hire him if you know, huh?
Paul Haggis: We got to get rid of
him right now.
Bobby Moresco: Exactly. (laughter)
He was that impulsive before, he’s not really
out of money. When Tom walked in the set, I mean,
he was doing no issue, he was just the new every instinct,
every one knew he was.
Paul Haggis: I mean, they are just
wonderful, that way that they could adapt to whatever
it is, that dialogue that we chose whatever we picked
the point in the map and then have them - it was like,
“Let’s pretend we’re here."
And they were all great. I mean, we’ve got kids
from Boston and then kids from Jersey and a couple
of kids from Manhattan and they’re all pretty
much sounds the same, so they are very skilled actors.
do you think, for years, we really never heard so
much about Irish thugs or Mobsters? And now, we have
a whole - you heard mostly about Italian-American?
And now, we have Brotherhood and The Departed, there
was a character, and now, The Black Donnellys. So
why do you think there’s this interest now?
Paul Haggis: I don’t think
it’s an interest. I don’t know. Bobby
- we just that - well, Bobby wrote this 1996 that
we wrote out. So it’s hard to say. It was like
last year wit the Oscar when people are asking us
why is it that, all these films have social significance
this year. It’s impossible to tell because all
those projects, I mean, we created three, four, five
years before. And they always happened to role in
there, is there something that the consciousness or
common consciousness this causing, I don’t know.
guess what I meant, why didn’t people mind this
rich area before?
Bobby Moresco: I think it’s
impossible to understand. And then maybe it’s
not even true.
I just wanted Bobby to continue this a little bit
when he’s talking about, as a boy, he was involved
by the people around him and kind of understanding…
What was the next step when you really decided to
become a writer and to learn the other things and
so forth? What kind of you’re heading in that
Bobby Moresco: Well, there were
two things. The first was, when I grew on I don't
know on tenth avenue and 53rd street, we were right
in the middle three blocks to the east with Broadway,
two blocks from the West of the Docks. My father was
a Longshoreman, everybody worked in construction.
Everybody is getting involved crime or they are cops.
So it was real simple choices, to become a good, you
can be involved in crime, become a cop, work in the
docks or to walk East of Broadway. I like that way.
I started taking some acting classes when I’m
17. That changes my life, and I love my family members
and a lot of friends to see that a little bit. They
just totally just changed my entire outlook on everything
and I had to reinvent it somehow and try to understand
you Paul, thanks Bobby
Paul Haggis: Oh, thanks for joining
guys. It was really, really, really, good questions
Bobby Moresco: Thanks everybody.