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John Singleton’s ‘Snowfall’ Opens ATX TV Festival: ‘It’s Like ‘The Wonder Years’ With Coke’

Variety logo Variety 6/9/2017 Diane Gordon
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The opening night of the sixth ATX TV Festival celebrated the premiere of FX’s new drama “Snowfall” from filmmaker John Singleton. It’s Singleton’s first foray into series television after getting his feet wet directing episodes of FX’s “The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime story” and Fox’s “Empire.” Veteran producer-director Thomas Schlamme and executive producer/co-creator/showrunner Dave Andron (“Justified”) were key to helping Singleton fully realize the story he wanted to tell, which is based partly on his own experiences growing up in Los Angeles.

Like the show’s lead character Franklin Saint, Singleton went to high school in the valley for a year, where he noticed, “My friends in the ghetto smoked weed, my friends at school did coke.” Singleton did what he knew all good writers did, he wrote what he knew and used oral histories from people who lived through these events at the time. Singleton said, “I wanted to create a world.”

When the first version of the pilot didn’t come together, Dave Andron joined the project, did a rewrite and then a cast of actors was assembled and the show was off and running. Damson Idris auditioned on tape from London and spent a day with Singleton to prove he could do a convincing American accent and South Central swagger. Tommy Schlamme’s wife, actress Christine Lahti, suggested Carter Hudson for the role of CIA agent Teddy after seeing him in an off-Broadway play. Hudson put himself on tape and the “Snowfall” producers flew him to L.A. the next day. Schlamme says he told Hudson, “If you get the role, you owe Christine ten percent.”

Describing the relationship between CIA agent Teddy and Nicaraguan Contra soldier Alejandro, Juan Javier Cardenas explained it to be an odd couple relationship, “Teddy and Alejandro are in a hellish marriage and they have to make it work. Alejandro comes from a really dark world. He’s a patriot who is trying to get his country back.”

The drama is set in 1983 Los Angeles but the team was careful not to go overboard with ’80s kitsch. Singleton revealed, “It’s nostalgic but not over the top. Even the music, a lot of the music of the late ’70s was still popular in the ’80s. It’s like ‘The Wonder Years’ – with coke.” Andron added, “We left out the shoulder pads.”

“Snowfall” premieres July 5 at 10 p.m. on FX.

(Pictured: John Singleton at FX’s ‘Snowfall’ Panel TCA Winter Press Tour in Los Angeles)

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