Writer David Simon has long been fascinated by what makes cities tick. Whether examining drug crime in Baltimore on “The Wire” or the music scene of New Orleans in “Treme,” he may be TV’s foremost chronicler of urban life. It’s fitting, then, that his latest project is “Show Me a Hero,” a miniseries on HBO that depicts the fight of Yonkers' white residents in the 1980s to prevent racial integration despite a court mandate to build low-income housing in white neighborhoods.
Based on a book of the same name, the story follows the youthful mayor of Yonkers, Nick Wasicsko, played by Oscar Isaac, who attempts to abide by the mandate despite the extensive opposition. Winona Ryder co-stars as Vinni Restiano, a Yonkers city councilor, and Paul Haggis, director of Oscar winner "Crash," directed the six-part miniseries, which premieres Sunday at 9 p.m.
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The series traces the lives of the elected officials and everyday citizens who were involved in the city’s desegregation troubles. Speaking at the red carpet premiere for the show, Simon said he felt author Lisa Belkin's story was "a great way of using the parable of race through this one moment in time."
When asked if his character is the titular hero, Isaac replied, "I think the point is that there is no hero. There's only people trying to survive and do the right thing."
Carla Quevedo, who plays the wife of the mayor, Nay Noe Wasicsko, described her character as "naive" at the beginning but also the only one who’s truly supportive of her husband. Real-life Nay Wasicsko, who attended the screening, was "confident that [Carla] had nailed [her]."
Simon made it clear that the show could not be more relevant. "The same exact battle, same rhetoric, same demagoguery, same fears being elicited about...sharing society with the other" are happening, exactly like in the show, he said. "There's either going to be two Americas or there's not.”
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"If we don't learn how to live together in America and the world, there's going to be nothing left. We're just going to kill each other," said LaTanya Richardson Jackson, who plays Norma O'Neal, a nurse suffering from health issues who lives in one of the rougher segregated neighborhoods in the series.
And Quevedo thinks programming like “Show Me a Hero” is a vital part of healing those wounds, saying, "It's not only great fucking television...This part of history needed to be told."
Richardson Jackson, who was accompanied by husband Samuel L. Jackson to the screening, had high praise for the series as well, described working on the show as, "everything to me...Paul and David are top drawer."