At the premiere of TNT’s new drama series “Public Morals” on Wednesday evening, creator and star Edward Burns was in a festive mood. It has taken the actor-filmmaker nearly two decades to get his passion project about Irish-American gangsters onto the screen.
“I’ve been trying to get something like this show made for 18 years. So the fact that I’m here tonight at the show’s premiere is the best feeling,” Burns told Variety prior to the screening at New York’s Tribeca Grand Hotel.
TNT will debut “Public Morals” on Aug. 25. Burns plays a Hell’s Kitchen-based cop in 1960s New York and also serves as writer, producer and director. Despite so many responsibilities, the native New Yorker says it was an absolute joy to be hands-on in every aspect of the show.
“With TNT giving me complete creative control of the show, and having Steven Spielberg as an executive producer, and having a substantial budget, every day I was like a kid in a candy store,” he said. “I was so pumped to work on the show. I was working with a crew of all my guys and gals that I worked with before on my low-budget indies, and now we had money to play with. I was too high, quite honestly, and (too) excited to get tired. That said, the day after we wrapped, I crashed hard!”
Burns’ father and uncle, who are both retired New York City police officers, inspired the plot of “Public Morals.”
“While I was working with Steven Spielberg on ‘Saving Private Ryan,’ my dad and my uncle were on the set visiting, and Steven is talking to them at lunch and they are telling him great old cop stories back then,” Burns recalled. “At the end of the day, Steven says, ‘You need to make a cop movie about guys like that.'”
After years of attempting to get various screenplays made, Burns shelved the idea until TNT gave him the greenlight to create his own show for the network, with which he’d worked previously on Frank Darabont’s show “Mob City.” Burns dusted off all the scripts he’d written and created “Public Morals.”
“Some parts of the show are autobiographical. The relationship between my character and his older son is based on my life,” he said. “That’s the stuff that I drew from my childhood and how my father parented us. Everything else on the show is told from 100 years of NYPD myth, lore and stories. I’m a little bit of a history buff, so a lot of these situations is me transposing something that may have happened in the ’30s or the ’50s and moving it into the ’60s. By doing that, hopefully I’m telling a compelling story.”
Burns’ co-stars Brian Dennehy, Katrina Bowden, Austin Stowell, Wass Stevens, Keith Nobbs, Ruben Santiago-Hudson and Michael Rapaport all praised Burns’ work ethic and enthusiasm for the show.
“Working with Ed is fun and easy. He knows what he wants and he knows what he’s doing,” Rapaport said. “He’s so passionate about this show and about New York. He makes everyone feel good and makes our job easier.”
Following the screening, the cast ended the night by gathering at Walker’s bar for celebratory drinks. The intimate party hosted guests including Tony Danza and Paul Haggis. New York Magazine and Vulture co-hosted the event.
(Pictured: executive producer Aaron Lubin and Edward Burns at the “Public Morals” premiere)