| Copper Writer Kevin Deiboldt Thrives In Five Points
| Thursday, August 29, 2013
When Copper, a drama set in Five Points, NYC, in the 1860s, debuted last year it was BBC America’s first original scripted series. It quickly became the highest rated drama in the history of the network, and now in its second season the intensity has been ratcheted up tenfold.
Kevin Deiboldt has been writing for the show since its inception, crafting fictional stories that are filled with historical realities from the era. This week I caught up with Deiboldt to find out more about crafting the exploits of Kevin Corcoran, Francis Maguire, Robert Morehouse, Dr. Matthew Freeman, and friends. He also discussed how he, and the rest of the Copper team, get so many historically accurate details into each episode, and what he thinks his chances would have been of surviving in Five Points.
Adam Bernard: Where does your interest in 1860s Five Points, NY, come from? Do you have a personal connection?
Kevin Deiboldt: No, not really. I’ve lived in New York since 1999. I’ve always loved the area, and I love history, and I’m always fascinated by living in a city and seeing all the different layers of what’s survived in the past, and what’s still around. There’s really nothing left of Five Points as it was then. It’s such a fascinating, and rich, time period to draw upon, and the fact that (Copper) was a show that was picked up and was going to air, that peaked my interest even more. I first read the original script that Tom (Fontana) and Will (Rokos) wrote, probably back around 2008. They originally, I believe, wrote it for AMC, and it was in development there for a while, and then they had a creative turnover there, so it ended up not going. Years later when BBC America was looking for original programming, Perry Simon (General Manager of BBC America) and Tom are old friends, and he asked Tom and Will what they’d like to do. This was a show they had always had, and thought we would have a lot to draw upon if we could get it to air. It was always one of the favorite scripts that I had read from back then that had never went, so it was pretty exciting when it came back around.
Adam Bernard: You go to great pains to make sure the historical accuracy is there for Copper. How many people are involved in that process?
Kevin Deiboldt: We have a historical advisor we go to if we have specific questions that we can’t kind of uncover, or if we need help with something, but all of us, we all have an interest in history, and we’ve been working on period shows for a while. Kyle (Bradstreet), Tom Kelly, and I wrote for Borgia, Tom Fontana’s other show that’s shooting in Europe right now. We all wrote on the first season of that. When Copper went, we went to Copper, and others stayed on Borgia. We’ve been working on historical stuff for a long time, and it’s just one of those things where it helps enrich the story. We always try to find as much as we can include to try to fill out the universe that existed at the time. The phrase we like to say is we’re a historical show, but we’re not a documentary, so we’re not afraid to try to change some things if we need to. We incorporated (Robert Cobb) Kennedy into our story line, obviously he never interacted with any of our characters (in real life) because they’re fictional, but it was such an interesting story at time period, especially in New York, that it was something that we wanted to include. So really it’s all of us as the writing team, we all are just so interested in the history that we read and dig up every little thing we can. Our historical advisor is great. He's the same one we have last year. His name is Dan Czitrom, he’s a professor (at Mount Holyoke College), and he’s been super helpful if there’s something we can’t find, because he’s so knowledgeable. But when it comes to the scripts and the research, that’s really just all us.
Adam Bernard: This season you’ve added Donal Logue and Alfre Woodard to the cast. The first time they were handed one of your scripts you were thinking what?
Kevin Deiboldt: Donal was cast right before we started filming. He was actually someone we had in mind when we were conceiving the character. When he got the role it was fantastic, but it wasn’t until he came in and we were actually able to hear his voice, and that amazing Cork accent that he does, that it kinda came to life, and it influenced how the character was for the rest of the season. As for the other actors, Alfre, and Lee (Tergesen), and Aaron (Poole), we’ve been so blessed to have all of them be able to just come right in. Because it was in the middle of production we really didn’t have time to worry, or think about, “Oh my God, are they gonna like it?” It was great working with them and seeing them bring these characters to life and infusing them with a real human spirit. Alfre was phenomenal with giving input and feedback. Lee, what he did with (Philomen) Keating was one of my favorite performances of the year, just because he was such a different voice, and character, than we’ve had on the show. There was this light, sinister, insane, kind of feeling to it, that was great.
Adam Bernard: There are a lot of fight scenes in Copper. Has anyone taken a lump during shooting?
Kevin Deiboldt: I don’t think we’ve had any major injuries. I know in season one Dylan (Taylor) got a little crushed in his nether regions when he was tackling the woman in the alleyway in episode six. Other than that, we have such a great stunt team, they work everything out so well ahead of time, that you’re never really worried. They’re very careful, and very professional, especially because we use a lot of firearms, and we use actual black powder. It’s just a matter of making sure everyone knows exactly where everyone’s going, when everyone’s supposed to fire, and all of that. We’ve been extremely fortunate, no major injuries, just a little bruising.
Adam Bernard: Those are things you can, for the most part, control, but you also have animals on set, and they can be a little more unpredictable. Do you have any stories involving those animals being unruly, or out of control?
Kevin Deiboldt: Yeah. They’re noisy, especially the pigs. It was funny, this year when we had the pigs on set, the noises they made sounded fake. They sounded like someone had strapped a recorder to them and played what you think a pig sounds like. I didn’t know they actually made all those noises, but they just don’t shut up sometimes, so you’re trying to do a scene and you can just hear them squealing through. Later in the season we used one of those pig squeals on purpose. I do remember Alfre, when she was being shown the Freeman’s house, when they get out of the carriage and she walks up the steps, on one take, I believe a chicken got underneath her hoop skirt, and scared the hell out of her. That was pretty funny. For the most part they’re pretty good. The horses are always on set and I’m always amazed that they’re able to keep chill, and not freak out with everything going on. I think the best animals we had on set all year, though, were the baby goats, Hansel and Gretel. You could always tell when they were on set because you would just all of a sudden see all the crew over somewhere going “awww.” They really were the cutest things you’d ever seen.
Adam Bernard: You had a giant dog there at one point.
Kevin Deiboldt: Yes! It’s so big, so fluffy, so soft. I wish I remembered her name now. I think Kyle (Schmid) especially loved sitting there and just basically hugging the dog for an hour.
Adam Bernard: That probably wasn’t too tough for him to shoot. “Go hang out with the dog.”
Kevin Deiboldt: Just go sit with the dog. Just hug it for a while, feed it some apples. It was pretty great.
Adam Bernard: Is there any one character that you’re dying to flesh out a little more?
Kevin Deiboldt: I think that’s what we’ve been trying to do with season two overall. With season one we were kind of doing more of the “case of the week” shows. I would say the first half, or two thirds, of the season were a lot of those procedural elements where it’s find a body, solve the crime. Just those steps themselves, take up a lot of space in the episode, so there were a lot of storylines that we had hoped to do, or actually shot and ended up getting cut because we just didn’t have the time for it, especially with the Freemans towards the end of the year. There was a lot of their story that ended up on the cutting room floor last year, which was obviously disappointing. This year, when we kind of knew that we weren’t necessarily going to be doing a murder a week, we were going to be able to explore more about the characters, and do some more overarching stories, that gave us more time to be able to let us learn more about their lives. The Freemans, in particular, this year, it’s been a real pleasure to let Sara shine, and go through her journey, and (Dr. Matthew) Freeman’s journey. He has, over the last couple episodes, a great arch, as well. I guess if there was someone that I would like to do more with, personally I just can never get enough of (Andrew) O’Brien.
Adam Bernard: I’m so glad you said him. He's the one I want to know more about.
Kevin Deiboldt: Dylan (Taylor) is just awesome. He can literally do anything, whether it’s the comedy, or the physical, or the drama. He's fantastic. We’re just blessed with such a talented cast. I joke on Twitter about doing an O’Brien and Sybil (who is O’Brien’s wife) spinoff. Surprisingly, I tend to lean towards the comedy side of things in my life, so whenever we can get them riffing off one another it’s just a joy.
Adam Bernard: So if you were to pick one character from the show you’d want to have a drink with, it would probably be O’Brien?
Kevin Deiboldt: Probably, just because he’s also kind of the biggest, and I have a feeling if we went out drinking somewhere that I most likely would get into some sort of trouble, and I would like to have someone that I know could back me up, or at least take the licks for me, so I would say probably him. He would probably be the best. I also have a little Sybil in me, too, so I could get him to do what I need him to do.
Adam Bernard: Finally, if you’re looking to barhop with someone big, how do you think you would have survived in Five Points in the 1860s?
Kevin Deiboldt: I wouldn’t have made it. I would have been dead, or ran from the city screaming, probably. It was just such a difficult time. From reading through everything, and trying to relive it all, it’s just so difficult to picture ourselves living in there, at least personally, and the day to day life, and everything you had to endure, and work through. I guess I probably would have tried to make a go of it, and maybe I would have done alright, but it’s pretty soul crushing unless you have a strong support system, which isn’t unlike, I guess, today, on a smaller scale. When a lot of people come to the city it’s a matter of either you’re extremely self-reliant, or you have a good group of people to surround yourself with, and help you through everything.
Follow Kevin Deiboldt on Twitter at @Kluv32 (he live-tweets during each episode), and check out Copper on BBC America, Sundays at 10pm est / 9pm central, and at bbcamerica.com/copper.
Labels: Entertainment Features
|posted by Adam Bernard @ 7:00 AM