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Can ‘The Divide’ Do for WE Tv What ‘Mad Men’ Did for AMC?

Next week, WE tv will premiere “The Divide,” marking the basic cabler first attempt at an original scripted series — a leap into its rebranding strategy to be less known for femme-focused programming.

Created by writer-director Richard LaGravenese (“Behind the Candelabra,” “Water for Elephants”) and “Scandal” actor Tony Goldwyn, the eight-episode series follows a case worker and a district attorney both struggling to maintain their morals in a corrupt and racist justice system where an inmate is behind bars for a crime he (maybe?) didn’t commit. (Goldwyn also directed two episodes during his off time from leading the free world on “Scandal.”) If this sounds more high-brow that what’s expected from WE tv, that’s because it was a project originally workshopped for sister channel AMC.

At the channel’s Television Critics’ Assn. panel on Friday at the Beverly Hilton hotel, the creators and stars commented on this inevitable comparison:

They acknowledge the gravity of the show’s subject matter and worked with the Innocence Project, the nonprofit legal organization that works to overturn wrong convictions, for accuracy. This is issue that has haunted Goldwyn since he directed 2010’s “Conviction” and he said the subject matters in “The Divide” are “amalgams” of actual events, switching races and situations for stronger impact.

The panelists also acknowledged comparisons to Goldwyn’s day job, particularly when asked if they took anything away from Shonda Rhimes’ political sudser.

“How to shoot the sex scenes,” joked “The Divide” actress Marin Ireland.

“The Divide” premieres at 9 p.m. July 16 on WE tv.

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