Barry Levinson came to TCA to discuss Discovery’s The Killing Fields which debuted two nights earlier. The six-episode documentary series revolves around Detective Rodie Sanchez, 61, of Iberville Parish south of Baton Rouge, Louisiana. He has come out of retirement to work a cold case he investigated in ’97 of Eugenie Boisfontaine, a young woman whose body was found three months after she went missing, with evidence of blunt force trauma to her head. The case was re-opened in August and Sanchez partnered with Det. Aubrey St. Angelo, 37, in hopes of identifying the murderer.
One TV critic asked Levinson if he worries that, unlike the other true-crime docuseries so in vogue, this one might have an “unsatisfactory” ending.
“No, I don’t; I think it’s the journey that is the interesting thing, as opposed to just solving the crime,” Levinson replied. “You know, if the crime is solved, it is. If it’s not, it’s the journey of the two men basically to get to that, because I think where it differs from some of the other type of documentary shows that are doing that, I think we have an investment in these characters…Rodie fascinates me in terms of what he talks about, what he thinks. I think the same thing applies to Aubrey, and also their relationship with one another. We have an investment in character in search of an answer, and I think that’s where this show functions, as opposed to other TV fare that you’ve seen.”
The critics also wanted to hear what the two investigators thought of Netflix’s Making a Murderer, HBO’s The Jinx, and public radio’s podcast Serial. St. Angelo said he heard the titles but “hadn’t had a chance to look at them” and is “sure Rodie didn’t” either, though he has learned “how to work with a remote.”
“This is playing out in real time,” Levinson reminded. “So, it’s not as a joke when Aubrey said, ‘I just got a tip this morning and I want to get back.’ This is still going on. So we don’t know where it’s going to go exactly. That makes it so fascinating, you know. We’re getting the information from them. The people in production, they’re down there, are standing by, and they’re following it step by step. Where does it go? How does it affect them day to day? You understand the commitment these guys have. You understand the emotional connection they have. What happens next? That’s where we are.”
Last June, Discovery Channel tapped Tom Fontana and Barry Levinson to co-executive produce its new crime series that follows a group of detectives who work crimes in so-called “killing fields” – places where bodies get dumped and crimes covered up (Baltimore’s Leakin Park may be best known, having been featured in the public-radio podcast Serial and, further back, in HBO’s The Wire). The series launched a campaign by Rich Ross, who joined Discovery channel as president one year ago this month, to return true-crime programming to the lineup.