Blues Music, Southern Charm and Crime Make a Soulful Blend in TNT’s New Drama Series MEMPHIS BEAT, Starring Jason Lee set to premiere Tuesday, June 22, at 10 p.m. (ET/PT)
There’s a new sound coming to TNT this summer. It’s the bluesy, guitar-laced sound of MEMPHIS BEAT, TNT’s soulful original series about a Memphis police detective starring Jason Lee (My Name Is Earl) and Alfre Woodard (Three Rivers) and co-starring DJ Qualls (Hustle & Flow). The drama series is produced by George Clooney and Grant Heslov’s Smokehouse Pictures and Warner Horizon Television and is slated to premiereTuesday, June 22, at 10 p.m. (ET/PT).
The show centers on Dwight Hendricks (Lee), a quirky Memphis police detective with an intimate connection to the city, a passion for blues music and a close relationship with his mother. He is “the keeper of Memphis,” a Southern gentleman who is protective of his fellow citizens, reverential of the city’s history and deeply rooted in its blues music scene.
Despite his impeccable instincts as a detective, Dwight’s loose, relaxed style of police work rubs his demanding new boss, Lt. Tanya Rice (Woodard), the wrong way. But Dwight may eventually win her over to a Memphisstate of mind, especially when he takes the stage at his favorite hangout to perform a legendary song or two.
MEMPHIS BEAT co-stars DJ Qualls as Davey Sutton, a uniform cop who considers himself to be Dwight’s protégé. Also starring are Celia Weston (Junebug) as Dwight’s effervescent mother; Sam Hennings (Saving Grace) as Charlie White, aka Whitehead, Dwight’s seasoned, hypertensive partner; Leonard Earl Howze(Barbershop) as Reginald Greenback, a fellow detective struggling to make ends meet with two teenage daughters; and Abraham Benrubi (ER) as Sgt. JC Lightfoot, an officer who uses Chickasaw tribal wisdom in his police work.
MEMPHIS BEAT was created by Liz W. Garcia (Cold Case) and Joshua Harto (The Dark Knight), who also wrote the first two episodes. Harto, who grew up in the South and has spent a lot of time with his country-musician grandfather, sees the show’s setting as a chance to spotlight one of America’s great cities. “Memphis has been largely forgotten in film and TV today,” he says. “It’s where the blues and Johnny Cash and Elvis came from. It’s where Martin Luther King was assassinated and where Isaac Hayes and Aretha Franklin were born and raised. It’s the perfect blend of drama and humor for our show.”
Music is just as vital to MEMPHIS BEAT as its unique characters, drama and humor. “Music is a huge part of this show,” Garcia says. “It has to be. You can’t live in Memphis and not have your life steeped in music. The city has a soundtrack.”
To get that perfect Memphis feel, the production team approached noted blues singer/songwriter Keb’ Mo’. He will provide original compositions and performances for the show to supplement classic Memphis tracks.
MEMPHIS BEAT is executive-produced by Clooney, Heslov, Garcia, Harto, John Fortenberry (It’s Always Sunny inPhiladelphia) and Scott Kaufer (Boston Legal). Sean Whitesell (House M.D.) and Smokehouse Pictures’ Abby Wolf-Weiss are co-executive producers. The pilot was directed and executive-produced by Emmy® nomineeClark Johnson (The Shield). Harto and Garcia are a husband-and-wife team. Harto is also an actor.
Warner Horizon Television is one of the entertainment industry’s fastest-growing television companies, specializing in the creation of scripted series for the cable marketplace, and primetime reality series for both network and cable. Founded in 2006, this second production entity allows the Warner Bros. Television Group to expand its programming offerings and explore creative options made possible under a new business model. WHTV is producing more than a dozen series for broadcast and cable networks in 2009-2010.
Smokehouse Pictures was formed in 2006 by George Clooney and Grant Heslov. Clooney and Heslov co-wrote the critically acclaimed 2004 film Good Night, and Good Luck., which earned six Academy Award® nominations including Best Original Screenplay, as well as a Best Director nomination for Clooney and a Best Picture nomination for Heslov. Heslov and Clooney also produced K-Street and Unscripted, both for HBO. Under their Smokehouse shingle, Clooney and Heslov produced the feature films Leatherheads, The Men Who Stare at Goats, and forthcoming film The American, which will be released in fall 2010.
TNT, one of cable’s top-rated networks, is television’s destination for drama and home to such original series as the acclaimed and highly popular detective drama The Closer, starring Kyra Sedgwick; Men of a Certain Age, with Ray Romano, Andre Braugher and Scott Bakula; Saving Grace, starring Holly Hunter; HawthoRNe, with Jada Pinkett Smith; Leverage, starring Timothy Hutton; and Dark Blue, starring Dylan McDermott; the upcomingRizzoli & Isles, starring Angie Harmon and Sasha Alexander; Memphis Beat, with Jason Lee; and Southland, from Emmy®-winning producer John Wells (ER). TNT also presents such powerful dramas as Bones, Supernatural,Las Vegas, Law & Order, CSI: NY, Cold Case and Numb3rs; broadcast premiere movies; compelling primetime specials, such as the Screen Actors Guild Awards®; and championship sports coverage, including NASCAR and the NBA. TNT is available in high-definition.
Turner Broadcasting System, Inc., a Time Warner company, creates and programs branded news, entertainment, animation and young adult media environments on television and other platforms for consumers around the world.
For more information, visit online at www.tnt.tv