Show Me a Hero creator David Simon discusses his upcoming HBO miniseries, which interviewer Sonia Saraiya predicts is "poised to be the next game-changing drama in the televisual canon — another show that transforms political consciousness for millions."
Based on the nonfiction book of the same name by Lisa Belkin, the miniseries explores concepts of home, race and community through the lives of elected officials, bureaucrats, activists and ordinary citizens in Yonkers, NY. "The story appeals to me not merely as political history," says Simon, "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 tells Saraiya in the interview, "There's an issue at stake that's almost perennial in terms of race and class and hyper-segregation that the show gives us an opportunity to address. One of the reasons for that is you have this arc for [then-Yonkers mayor] Nick Wasicsko. To invoke the quote from Lisa Belkin's book title: 'Show me a hero, and I'll write you a tragedy,' by Fitzgerald. It's a pretty classic Shakespearean arc, in terms of the tragedy. You've got this incredible spine that can sustain people if it's addressed by a good actor, and Oscar Isaac is certainly a good actor. We have a chance to pull people through the keyhole and make them attend to the issue. We have that going for us.
"The other thing is, I can concede that, on paper, if you hear that HBO's made a six-hour miniseries about building 200 units of low-income housing in East Yonkers, you'd think, my God, they don't know what they're doing. Someone needs to get ahold of that network. On paper, it sounds that way. But to me, it's the core of where the American experience is suffering. It's self-governance. How do we govern all this? Is this country still a utilitarian experiment? Are we governing in a way that's best for the most of us? Or do we not even give a f*** anymore? That's not a flippant question. You look around you, and you say, I'm not even sure anyone's asking the right questions anymore. To me, I'm not bored by it."
Read Sonia Saraiya's story on Salon: David Simon on Police Brutality, the Legacy of "The Wire" and the Future of American Cities (August 4, 2015)