At the TCA’s: Gritty Drama HBO’s The Deuce

Gritty and dark, HBO’s “The Deuce” centers around 1971 New York City’s Times Square burgeoning porn business as it transformed itself from a back-alley massage parlor commodity to a legitimate billion-dollar industry. Creator and showrunner David Simon (“The Wire”) is well-known for his exploration of the underbelly of society and “The Deuce” is no exception.

At the TCA’s the panel included executive producer David Simon, executive producer George Pelecanos; executive producer and star James Franco; producer and star Maggie Gyllenhaal; director of Episodes 1 and 8 Michelle Maclaren; and star Lawrence Gilliard, Jr.

One of the things getting buzz about the show is the look and feel – dirty and dim 70’s New York City on full display.

Director Michelle Maclaren directed the pilot and designed the look of the show. She commented, “It’s a wonderful collaboration with our production designer Beth Mickle, our cinematographer of the pilot, Pepe Avila del Pino — sorry, Pepe — and Vanja Cernjul, who did the rest of the season, and we shot the majority of the pilot –- practically — we went to real locations in New York City, and the wonderful citizens of New York collaborated with us and let us take over two blocks in Washington Heights, and, from a certain height down, we dressed it for 1971.”

Maclaren also credits research and CGI. “From a certain height up, it was CGI, and we brought in vehicles from the ’70s and had wonderful background players and costume designers. It was a massive collaboration inspired by research from the ’70s, both real photographs from that time period and also fabulous movies, many shot by Martin Scorsese.”

The feel of the show, combined with a stellar cast, has “The Deuce” gaining a lot of attention. HBO has already greenlit a second season of the show.

Maggie Gyllenhaal (Eileen/Candi, also a producer) welcomed the change to explore and examine misogyny as well as violence against women.

“Here we have this opportunity to pick it up and lay it on the table and to do it in a way that’s thoughtful and smart, I think, and also real…that includes having to see some things that look violent and uncomfortable. But I think, if you don’t put that on the table and take a really good, clear look at it, nothing will change, nothing will shift. And, to me, I feel like playing a prostitute who does go through very, very different things, as a filter through which to look at women in our relationship to sex, to power, to cash, to art, is maybe the most interesting — one of the most interesting ways to go into really exploring the state that we’re actually in right now.”

The cast and crew of “The Deuce” are determined to explore all aspects of this story and its place in history – including the inner workings of the city, police corruption, the Mafia’s role, the porn industry itself and the characters (many of whom are based on real people) who lived through it.

This dark, complex series is steeped in the tradition of Simon’s previous work, and the long-game of exploring characters and their motivations. Check out HBO’s “The Deuce,” premiering Sunday, September 10th at 9 pm ET.