Adi Hasak wrote Shades Of Blue on spec about four years ago while he was making a living writing scripts for B action movies because he said he wanted to prove to himself that “I can do better than that.”
To write the TV drama, which deals with corruption in the police force, Hasak drew on his seven-year experience as an Israeli soldier in Beirut in the 1980s. Born in Holland to Israeli parents, Russian Jews from New York who based their trading business with Russia in Holland and not the U.S. because of the Cold War, Hasak went to high school in the States before moving to Israel where he served in the military, graduated from university, wrote speeches in English for the Labor Party and worked as a a journalist. “Then my son was born, and I was in Beirut on reserves. I came home one day and said, ‘I just can’t do this anymore’.” The young family picked up and left for Los Angeles. “And when the money ran out in LA., I said there is this thing called writer, I’ll try to do that.”
While writing action/thriller features like Shadow Conspiracy, From Paris with Love and 3 Days to Kill, Hasak developed for the U.S. networks. But “they always love me in July wouldn’t return my calls in January because I would do the quirky, interesting shows. And they’d always say, why couldn’t you just do a lawyer, or a doctor show or a cop show.”
When Hasak wrote Shades of Blue, he did not have agency representation, with attorney Patti Felker handling his deals. Using the old Hollywood rule of knowing someone who knows someone, the script got in the hands of producer Elaine Goldsmith-Thomas and director Barry Levinson who came on board. The scripted landed at ABC which sat on it for a year on and off. In late 2012, it came down to two scripts, Shades and Blue and paranormal investigation drama Weird Desk, for a summer straight-to-series order. Shades of Blue was supposed to be shot in Toronto subbing for New York, which neither Hasak not Levinson were happy about but Hasak was willing to do it. “I was eager to please, I wanted to be on a network show.” As fate would have it, ABC chose Weird Desk, which was quickly shelved, reportedly under pressure from Marvel over similarities to their pilot Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
The deal for Shades of Blue was made in a way that if ABC did not pick it up, the rights reverted back to Hasak and Goldsmith-Thomas. When they had the script back, Hasak reached out to Ryan Seacrest and his scripted executive Nina Wass, who joined the project. Goldsmith-Thomas brought up the name of long-time collaborator Jennifer Lopez for the lead. “I rolled my eyes, yeah, that’s really going to happen, I didn’t know the history they had.”
With Lopez as star and Levinson as director, the big package, handled by CAA, landed at NBC with a straight-to-series order. The series landed two more top cast choices, Ray Liotta and Drea de Matteo, and embarked on filming in New York where it is set.
While years had passed between the time Hasak originally wrote the spec and when it went into production and despite its subject matter resonating with current events, he said that he didn’t make any changes.
“I witnessed different things in Beirut in the 80s, and I’m aware of that world,” he said. “When I came up with this idea I wanted to do something about the crisis that we have in general, not just in this country, crisis of corruption and morality. If you look at the three characters, it is rally a study in corruption with the three characters, you have Ray Liotta’s Wozniak who is in deep in corruption, you have Jennifer Lopez’s Santos who is up to (her neck) in corruption, and then you have Dayo Okeniyi’s Loman who is stepping into corruption. So this is really a composite of one character told in three times.”
Why did he decide to do a cop show? “You could do a morality play with gangsters but there is no morality play with gangsters. Cops are good guys where I come from, I’m a soldier, soldiers are good guys, and cops are good guys. So it’s much more interesting to investigate the whole idea of corruption and morality with some of the finest people we have as opposed to doing it with mobsters.”
There was another option. “I could’ve made it about accountants, but no one would’ve made that, so I did a cop show.”