Paycabler was still hammering out details on the order late Tuesday, including how many episodes will initially be produced. Simon and Overmyer wrote the pilot and will exec produce; Nina Noble and former HBO Entertainment topper Carolyn Strauss exec produce as well. David Mills is set as a co-exec producer.
“Treme” centers on New Orleans residents – including musicians and a restauranteur – living in the city’s Treme district. Show follows the characters as they look to reclaim their lives as the city continues to rebuild.
“It will be uplifting at points, and may make viewers a little angry at points,” Simon said. “And at another point it will make viewers a little depressed.”
Simon said he and Overmyer, who lives in New Orleans, had been in love with the city long before the storm — but post-Katrina, knew there was a story to be told.
But, he warned, “Treme” is not “The Wire: New Orleans.”
“We don’t intend to make ‘The Wire’ twice,” Simon said. “This is about people reconstituting their lives after their town was mostly, effectively destroyed… It’s not entirely a political show. We’re trying to be very intimate with people. And New Orleans is completely unique, there’s nothing in the world like it.”
Simon noted that there’s even perhaps the story of New Orleans can be used as a metaphor for the country’s current economic woes.
“Look at what happened down there after Katrina,” he said. “A lot of things in which New Orleans depended on and trusted turned out to be wholly undependable and untrustworthy. The governing institutions were supposed to monitor things of actual construct like the levees and the pumping stations. That could be an allegory for what we Americans presumed about our financial institutions, and the governing bodies that were supposed to monitor them.
“New Orleans found itself on its ass some years ago, and the rest of the country stared at it as it it was a unique case,” Simon said. “In some sense, Katrina is an outwire of what the rest of the country was going to experience.”
Production on “Treme” won’t begin until fall, following hurricane season. Simon said the producers themselves wouldn’t have a problem with shooting during those months — but that it’s nearly impossible to secure insurance for New Orleans-set productions during that time of the year.
That means HBO is eyeing a spring debut for the show. HBO had already picked up an additional nine scripts for the series beyond the pilot.
Cast includes Wendell Pierce, who plays a jazz musician with a new baby and an ex-wife, played by Khandi Alexander. Steve Zahn, Clarke Peters, Kim Dickens, Melissa Leo and Rob Brown also star.
Pilot was directed by Agnieszka Holland. At HBO, cabler still has the drama pilot “Broadwalk Empire” in production.