EXCLUSIVE: In his first major episodic TV project since his Emmy-winning turn in 30 Rock, Alec Baldwin will star in and executive produce an untitled series for Universal Television and HBO. The series will be scripted by Wells Tower, and Baldwin will play Joe Byrne, a billionaire real estate developer philanthropist, and celebrated socialite/tabloid fixture, who is unexpectedly rocketed into NYC politics when tragedy strikes the incumbent mayor and he is drafted to replace him. Cary Brokaw and Baldwin will be executive producers.
The project had multiple bidders chasing it and it’s a put pilot deal with a substantial penalty if it runs anything less than a full season. The plan is to shoot in New York, most likely in September, and they are just beginning to figure out which major director will shoot the pilot. It will be an hour drama that explores celebrity and the political landscape in New York City, dark but not as pitch black as House Of Cards. The way it was put to me is the aspiration is to be most consistently hit the tone of the lightest and most entertaining episodes of The Sopranos. Baldwin, who has mulled a possible move into real politics, will play a larger-than-life divorced entrepreneur whose burst into the political spotlight is made interesting by his appetite for women and a dark past.
“Cary and I were going to do this together nine years ago, but I got detoured by Lorne Michaels and Tina Fey into 30 Rock,” Baldwin told me. Universal TV, which had been trying to get him to do another half-hour sitcom, sparked to this idea and it came together quickly. Both Baldwin and Brokaw were intrigued by the endless creative possibilities inherent in making HBO the home. They interviewed a slew of young writers before fixing on Tower.
“The character is a philanthropist, a big businessman and well-known tabloid fixture in New York,” Baldwin said. “He’s Trump without the baggage, Bloomberg but a Democrat, George Soros if he was in real estate, a left-leaning Democrat who is also a businessman who understands the reality of how the city has to be run to create the right climate for the business community. He’s drafted for this run because the alternative would be catastrophe. We’ve seen from shows like Kevin Spacey’s House Of Cards that you can go anywhere creatively. He throws Kate Mara’s character in front of a subway train and you think, what the hell is going on? You can create these Shakespearean character arcs, and pull the curtain back on how New York City is actually run and how political careers are made and lost in the city.”
Baldwin has a deal with Universal TV going back to 30 Rock, which trumped the overall deal Brokaw’s Avenue Pictures has at Warner Bros Television, where he is allowed a handful of exclusions. Tower, whose fiction and nonfiction writing has been published by The New Yorker, Harper’s, The Paris Review, McSweeney’s, Best American Short Stories and Best American Essays, is a correspondent for GQ magazine. He previously wrote the HBO pilot Paper, and adapted his short story into the HBO pilot Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned.