Category: Archive

Black Irish

February 17, 2011

By Staff Reporter

Set in a contemporary, blue-collar neighborhood in New York City, the series is about four twenty-something Irish-American brothers making a living on the wrong side of the law and protecting each other at all costs. Playing these rising stars in the world of organized crime are Thomas Guiry (“Mystic River,”) Jonathan Tucker (“Sleepers,”) Billy Lush (“Huff,”) and newcomer Michael Stahl-David. Rounding out the cast are Irish “Alpha Dog” star Olivia Wilde, who portrays the boys’ life-long friend, Jenny Reilly, and former “Oz” inmate, Kirk Acevedo, who plays Nicky Cottero, leader of the neighborhood’s Italian crime ring.
The brainchild of Paul Haggis and Bobby Moresco — the Irish-American, Oscar-winning writers of “Crash” and creators of the critically acclaimed, but short-lived 1996 TV drama, “EZ Streets” — “The Black Donnellys” is inspired by Moresco’s own personal experiences.
“When we were doing ‘EZ Streets,’ I used to talk to Paul a lot about what it was like growing up in Hell’s Kitchen with the world of the Irish mob and being involved in all of that, friends and family, great stories, many of them,” the 56-year-old Moresco told the Irish Echo in a recent phone interview. “After ‘EZ Streets’ was gone, he called me up and said, ‘Hey, I want to do your life story; you want to do it with me?’ And I said, ‘Damn right I’m doing it with you because you’ll do it without me if I don’t!’
“So, we started with a lot of the great characters and many of the stories I knew growing up,” Moresco went on. “But from there, we decided to create a fictional world in a fictional neighborhood in New York and we took many of those incidents and we turned it inside out and we created a whole world of fiction that started with my experiences growing up, but it’s not an autobiographical piece.”
The co-producer of “Million Dollar Baby” says much of the show is loosely based on tales he heard from friends and family members who knew or were involved with the Westies, the Irish mob that ran Hell’s Kitchen in the 1970s and 1980s.
“You write what you know,” he said, adding that he hopes the show will capture the interest of an ethnically diverse audience, even though it is primarily about Irish and Italian New Yorkers.
“Even though we all know it is about the Irish-American experience, the universal quality (is) of four brothers living in a world that they are incapable of existing in. They could be facing death at any time. They could be facing betrayal at any given time. They could be facing losing people they love at any given time. That’s the universal quality that we all live with,” said Moresco, who has five brothers himself in real life. “It’s not just four Irish brothers. It’s four brothers and a woman and a mother facing problems that each and every one of us face every day in our own lives. That’s what’s going to get a big audience. Not just the Irish section of it.”
The show’s executive producer/writer/director insists he doesn’t impose his own values on the complex characters he writes about, regardless of how morally ambiguous their actions might be.
“When we write, we write from a point of view, not of judgment,” he explained. “We’re writing about people we loved, people we admired, people we respected and, when we grew up, we found out there was another side to them and the question of how to understand how people that you love with all of your heart and all your soul are capable of monstrous things and you know they were good people once.”
Part gritty mob drama, part coming-of-age story, the show spends plenty time on the boys’ misdeeds and power struggles with rival gangsters to satisfy action junkies, however, it is the brothers’ chemistry and loyalty to each other that make the show unique and immensely watchable.
“If these were not the charismatic, talented actors they are, what was on the page would not have been realized,” Moresco said when asked the secret to making the Donnellys’ brotherly love so believable. “If it was not on the page, no matter how talented they are or how charismatic, it wouldn’t have been realized. They are co-dependent. ”

“The Black Donnellys” airs after “Heroes” on NBC Mondays at 10 p.m.

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