Stephen Gaghan
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“Traffic” and “Syriana’s” Stephen Gaghan is returning to similar terrain, as he has been tapped to direct the pilot for AMC’s geopolitical drama “White City.”

The drama, which comes from former Middle East correspondent for Time magazine Nick McDonell and former senior Afghanistan adviser to Richard C. Holbrooke John Dempsey, centers on Western diplomats and journalists living in Afghanistan. The lead character is Jon Liston, a war junkie who has spent the better part of the last decade in Kabul with a front-row seat to the carnage. In the pilot, Jon ignores the advice of everyone and overreaches in an attempt to talk with insurgent leaders. It does not go well.

McDonell and Dempsey are co-writers and co-executive producers. Executive producers are Chris Mundy, a long-time journalist for Rolling Stone and showrunner on “Criminal Minds” and “Low Winter Sun,” and Tom Freston, the former CEO of Viacom and a former resident of Afghanistan. Gaghan is also exec producing. “White City” is an AMC Studios production.

“Nick and John were actually staying at my house, fresh out of Kabul, when they were going around pitching the show,” said Gaghan. “They then went on to write a truly astonishing script. Which got the attention of another old pal, Chris Mundy. It reminds me of Altman’s ‘Mash’ or a great Hal Ashby script. But really, let’s face it, if Coppola was doing ‘Apocalypse Now’ today, it would be an AMC series.”

Mundy added that he had tried to get Gaghan involved almost from the start.

“We’re unbelievably excited that Steve is doing this. Before the pilot was even ordered, we talked about him as our dream director so to have it come to fruition is incredible,” said Mundy. “He not only knows and cares deeply about the terrain we’re covering but he brings an energy and intelligence that you can’t match. It’s a show that everyone involved with feels very passionate about and protective of. So, to have Steve step in and match that same passion makes us realize how lucky we are.”

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