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TV Talk: “Show Me A Hero” Miniseries On HBO






            In an America generations removed from the greatest civil rights struggles of the 1960s, the young mayor of a mid-sized American city is faced with a federal court order that says he must build a small number of low-income housing units in the white neighborhoods of his town. His attempt to do so tears the entire city apart, paralyzes the municipal government and, ultimately, destroys the mayor and his political future.

            From David Simon (HBO’s “Treme” and “The Wire”) and Paul Haggis (“Crash”), the HBO Miniseries presentation SHOW ME A HERO debuts its first two parts back-to-back SUNDAY, AUG. 16 (8:00-10:00 p.m. ET/PT), followed by two parts on both of the subsequent Sundays – Aug. 23 and 30 – at the same time. In addition to Simon and Haggis (who directs all six parts), the miniseries is executive produced by Nina K. Noble, Gail Mutrux and William F. Zorzi, Jr.

            Based on the nonfiction book of the same name by Lisa Belkin, the miniseries explores notions of home, race and community through the lives of elected officials, bureaucrats, activists and ordinary citizens in Yonkers, NY.

            The cast includes Oscar Isaac (“Inside Llewyn Davis,” “Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens”) as Mayor Nick Wasicsko; Catherine Keener (Oscar® nominee for “Capote” and “Being John Malkovich”) as longtime East Yonkers resident Mary Dorman; Alfred Molina (“Love Is Strange,” HBO’s “The Normal Heart”) as Councilman Henry J. Spallone; Winona Ryder (Oscar® nominee for “Little Women” and “The Age of Innocence”) as Councilwoman Vinni Restiano; LaTanya Richardson-Jackson (“Blue Bloods,” “The Watsons Go to Birmingham”) as housing project resident Norma O’Neal; Bob Balaban (“The Grand Budapest Hotel,” HBO’s “Recount”) as U.S. District Judge Leonard Sand; Jim Belushi (“The Defenders,” “According to Jim”) as incumbent Yonkers Mayor Angelo Martinelli, who lost his bid for a seventh term to Nick Wasicsko; and Jon Bernthal (“The Wolf of Wall Street”) as NAACP attorney Michael Sussman.

            Lisa Belkin was a New York Times reporter in the late 1980s, when Yonkers, a city of 200,000 located just north of The Bronx and nearly 80% white, was suddenly confronted by a politically unpopular reality. A lawsuit undertaken by the U.S. Justice Department and the NAACP had proven definitively that Yonkers officials had used federal housing funds to purposely segregate the city for decades, and while elected officials vowed to appeal that ruling, even the city’s own lawyers saw little chance it could be overturned on the merits.

            The remedy for the civil rights violations is simple, but politically fraught: Yonkers must build 200 units of low-income housing somewhere on the white side of the Saw Mill River Parkway in East Yonkers, followed by another 800 units of affordable housing. A committed housing expert, Oscar Newman (Peter Riegert, “Local Hero”), is determined to use a new philosophy of public housing to avoid the high-rise projects and slum conditions of previous generations, and Yonkers housing commissioner Peter Smith (Terry Kinney, HBO’s “Oz”) and housing consultant Robert Mayhawk(Clarke Peters, HBO’s “The Wire”) stand ready to help him. But before they can do so, Yonkers officials must name the sites on which the new townhouses can be built.

            Their attempts bring only rage from white residents who are determined to protect their own property values and stop the public housing at all costs. Wasicsko, a young councilman, initially sides with the residents and uses that position to defeat the incumbent mayor, but the electoral result doesn’t make the outcome of the court case any less inevitable for Yonkers.

            Wasicsko and his young wife, Nay (Carla Quevedo, “Abril en Neuva York”), a city employee, are battered by the maelstrom that results, and ultimately, their lives are changed forever. Slowly and inexorably, the townhomes begin to go up and the residents who will have to cross the Yonkers color line are chosen.

            But will this experiment in racial integration and social mobility work after so much anger and fury? Will white opponents such as Mary Dorman come to terms with a new reality? And will the residents themselves be comfortable in neighborhoods that so fiercely opposed them?

            “The story appeals to me not merely as political history,” says Simon, for whom SHOW ME A HERO marks his fifth project at HBO, “but because the question in Yonkers in 1987 was the same one that we face today. Are all of us – those with and those without, white, black or brown – are we all sharing some portion of the same national experience? Or is the American Dream something other than that?”

            Simon partnered on SHOW ME A HERO with longtime collaborator William F. Zorzi, Jr., a colleague from Simon’s days at the Baltimore Sun, who served as one of the newspaper’s top political reporters covering state and local government. Zorzi re-reported the Belkin book, getting to know many of the survivors of that era in Yonkers over the course of more than a decade of preparation and research for the miniseries.

            Says Paul Haggis, “Frankly, I have long desired to be a part of anything David Simon does. If he had asked me to direct a history of footwear, that’s what we would be discussing now. Luckily, it was a part of our history that really intrigued me, largely because it isn’t history at all, but an exploration of issues that remain at the core of the American narrative. Working from Lisa’s terrific book, Bill and David handed me a compelling story of flawed individuals trying to do what they believe is right for their community, people struggling to make better lives for their families, and those just trying to hang on to what they have. I am honored to have been able to collaborate with the writers, producers, actors, artists and crew members who worked so hard to create this miniseries, and network executives brave enough to encourage us to do so.”

            Notes Michael Lombardo, president, HBO Programming, “When you hear ‘David Simon, Paul Haggis and Oscar Isaac,’ you say, ‘I can’t wait to see that.’ Along with an elite cast and crew, they’re telling a tragic story set in a fractured America very much in the news today. We are proud to share this story on HBO.”

            Parts include:

            Part 1

            Debut for Parts 1 and 2: SUNDAY, AUG. 16 (8:00-10:00 p.m. ET/PT)

 Nick Wasicsko becomes the youngest big-city mayor in America, but at what cost? Even before he is inaugurated, the obligation to build public housing in the white neighborhoods of Yonkers looms over his new administration.

            Written by William F. Zorzi & David Simon; directed by Paul Haggis.


            Part 2

            Debut for Parts 1 and 2: SUNDAY, AUG. 16 (8:00-10:00 p.m. ET/PT)

      All hell breaks loose as the Yonkers mayor and city council are given an ultimatum by a federal judge weary of further delay. Meanwhile, public housing residents trapped in the deteriorating projects of West Yonkers watch and wait as the white residents of East Yonkers make clear just how opposed they are.

            Written by William F. Zorzi & David Simon; directed by Paul Haggis.


            Part 3

            Debut for Parts 3 and 4: SUNDAY, AUG. 23 (8:00-10:00 p.m.)

   Mayor Wasicsko finally achieves some consensus and rams through a housing plan with a tough vote, and housing officials begin to plan to build the new townhomes. But even as they do, the political cost to Wasicsko becomes apparent.

            Teleplay by William F. Zorzi; story by William F. Zorzi & David Simon; directed by Paul Haggis.


            Part 4

            Debut for Parts 3 and 4: SUNDAY, AUG. 23 (8:00-10:00 p.m.)

  A new mayor pledges to oppose the housing, even though it is never quite clear what he might be able to do in that regard. Meanwhile, Nick Wasicsko tries to reconcile himself to life out of power as construction of the townhomes begin.

            Teleplay by William F. Zorzi; story by William F. Zorzi & David Simon; directed by Paul Haggis.


            Part 5

            Debut for Parts 5 and 6: SUNDAY, AUG. 30 (8:00-10:00 p.m.)

       Armed with a growing recognition that he had fought on the side of angels in the battle over the housing, Nick Wasicsko plans his political comeback, while the residents for the new townhouses are screened and chosen.

            Written by William F. Zorzi & David Simon; directed by Paul Haggis.


            Part #6

            Debut for Parts 5 and 6: SUNDAY, AUG. 30 (8:00-10:00 p.m.)

            A comprehensive orientation process awaits the incoming residents, and many have second thoughts about moving into neighborhoods that don’t welcome them. At the same time, Mary Dorman, long a vocal opponent of the housing, is recruited to serve the incoming residents in a way that even she finds startling. Meanwhile, Nick Wasicsko begins the long road back to political viability, even as the residents take possession of their new townhomes. But in the end, a second act for the wounded young politician proves elusive.

David Simon and William F. Zorzi, Jr. wrote SHOW ME A HERO, based on Lisa Belkin’s book of the same name; Paul Haggis directed all six parts; David Simon, Nina K. Noble, Paul Haggis, Gail Mutrux and William F. Zorzi, Jr. executive produced.

About Pauly D (681 Articles)
Paul hails from Central Connecticut where he was a child of the 80’s. A lifelong lover of all things Sci-Fi, Paul is particularly fond of anything to do with Star Wars and Star Trek. He is also a huge Stephen King Fan. When he is not writing for PCU he is spending time with his wife and two geeky daughters.
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