The Mayor writer/EP Jeremy Bronson says his lead character, an aspiring rapper accidentally elected mayor of a small Bay Area town after campaigning as a publicity stunt, is not an alt-look Donald Trump, the reality TV star turned POTUS, who some have suggested did not expect/want to win so much as to bolster ratings on Celebrity Apprentice.
Series mayor Courtney Rose, played by Brandon Michael Hall, is as much Mr. Smith Goes To Washington and Jerry Springer as Trump, Bronson insisted at TCA.
Bronson said the show was conceived “before the events of the past 12 months.”
“I was a producer for MSNBC for Hardball with Chris Matthews for seven-and-a-half years in D.C. So I have always been a political junkie and a socially conscious-type person,” Bronson said, claiming he’d long wanted to do a scripted series about a community coming together in a non-partisan way.
That said, he pitched the show in July, the month Trump officially became the GOP candidate during that party’s convention, though it was clear the nomination was his long before that. Bronson acknowledged “things were heating up in the presidential” race that month. But the “germ” of the show came, he said, “a little before that,” and the pilot’s writing continued until January. That’s the month Trump was inaugurated.
But talking about The Mayor at her TCA Q&A, ABC Entertainment president Channing Dungey brought up Trump, not Springer or the classic Jimmy Stewart movie. Trump’s election, she said, made her think about the theme of “change and need for new voices,” and made the show “timely and relevant.”
“Obviously, given the politics of the past year, it’s helped,” Bronson conceded during the opening Q&A of Sunday’s ABC day at TCA. “Everybody is a lot more focused on what they can do, what we can all do to improve our country, improve our situations.”
“It’s given us a lot of inspiration for the show. But it’s not tackling an issue of the week, nor is it a parody or satire,” he insisted.
The idea “anybody can be elected,” as one critic pointedly put it, is “very much a theme of the show,” Branson said, noting at MSNBC, “We were always attracted to those outsider stories,” particularly if that candidate was deemed a “well-intended” person.
The series’ improbable mayor, Courtney Rose (Brandon Michael Hall) is “very smart but hasn’t thought about how to go about solving any of these issues. That’s an important theme of this show,” he added.
“We’re much more interested in this really socially conscious guy who is young and smart, who is thrust into this unlikely position…who looks around his community, sees these problems. He’s been rapping about them for years,” and now is in a position (to make changes) with the help of his mom (Yvette Nicole Brown) and his advisers (Lea Michele),” Bronson noted.
Asked if the series owes more to Frank Capra than Donald Trump, Bronson said The Mayor is not a “one-on-one” with Capra’s classic, Mr. Smith Goes To Washington.
“He really is, ‘This is a guy who did not want to win, but deeply loves this city, is very generous, feels the pressure and weight of this job, and the responsibility he has been given.’ And with Mom’s help, he is really going to be that maverick-type politician who is using tools maybe other conventional politicians don’t have.”
In addition to Capra and Trump, the show owes a nod to Jerry Springer, Bronson said, getting a rise out of the room on Sunday morning, which is pretty tough to pull off at TCA. While working on Hardball, Bronson said, the program covered Springer’s run at a Senate seat, during which the pugnacious daytime show host said people would not vote for him based on his tawdry TV program. “There’s elements of that in Courtney Rose,” Bronson said.
But, yes, there will be opportunities for cameos by real politicians, Bronson said.