Shooting on the pilot is set to start October 14. Johnson is a producer on the series and was instrumental in bringing the project to Simon. But Johnson is stepping down for the time being, says a source with knowledge of the situation.
Johnson has been questioned by investigators in connection with the death of dermatologist Kiersten Cerveny, a married mother of three who was found unconscious in a Chelsea apartment building Sunday morning; police have been quoted as saying her death is consistent with a cocaine overdose and is not being treated as a homicide.
Set in the Times Square demimonde of the 1970s and ’80s, The Deuce follows the story of the rise of the porn industry in Midtown Manhattan from the early 1970s through the mid-’80s. Johnson was instrumental in documenting the story that inspired the series: twin brothers who were players in Times Square and became mob fronts in the lucrative sex industry. James Franco is playing both roles in the pilot, written by Simon and longtime collaborator George Pelecanos and directed by Michelle MacLaren (Breaking Bad). Richard Price (The Color of Money) also is credited on subsequent scripts. Simon, Pelecanos, Price, MacLaren and Franco serve as executive producers, along with longtime Simon collaborator Nina K. Noble. Maggie Gyllenhaal also stars.
Johnson and Cerveny ended up at the five-story walk-up in Chelsea very early Sunday morning. Investigators have security camera video from inside the building showing Johnson and another man carrying her downstairs hours later, police are quoted as saying in various news reports. The Associated Press reported Johnson is not expected to face charges and that he called 911 and stayed until EMTs arrived. The New York Post reported Johnson told police detectives he tried to perform CPR on Cerveny and called for help.
Johnson was nominated for an Emmy as a producer of Michael Moore’s 1999 series The Awful Truth.