Showtime’s new halfhour Wall Street comedy series Black Monday is like a punk rock band messing with genres, series creator/showrunner Jordan Cahan told TV critics at TCA today.
The series, which marks Don Cheadle’s return to Showtime following House of Lies, begins with October 19, 1987, aka Black Monday, the worst stock market crash in Wall Street history. To this day, no one knows who caused it — until now. The series supposes a group of outsiders took on the blue-blood, old-boys club of Wall Street and ended up crashing the world’s largest financial system, a Lamborghini limousine, Don Henley’s birthday party, and the glass ceiling.
“It’s a foot off the ground – probably more than a foot,” Cahan explained, saying they read a lot, including Barbarians at the Gate, Den of Thieves, but are “trying to have fun with the era.”
The fun, he said was “taking one of history’s mysteries and making up your own mad, insane, bonkers version of what could have happened.” Some economists’ crazier theories are incorporated into storylines.
There was a Lehman Brothers trading house, he mentioned as a for instance – except the show invents twin brothers “with questionable sexual mores,” fellow creator/showrunner David Caspe chimed in.
Caspe said some plot points were pulled from his Chicago soybean trader father’s reminiscences about walking out of a room just as a bunch of prostitutes were walking in, or seeing a lot of cocaine in a room as he passed by. “Incredible detail” his dad “claims to have had no part of,” he joked.
Odd questions got asked.
One TV critic wondered what it was like to write about an era in which there were no mobile phones or social media. Regarding the pre-GPS era, Caspe told the critic, “I don’t know if people here remember getting lost.”
Another TV critic wanted advice on the likelihood of another stock market crash.
“The market seems to continually crash,” Caspe hedged, adding, “I’m not a financial adviser. Don’t adjust your investments.”
Cahan took a more what-the-heck attitude, forecasting it would be six to seven months before “the next one.”
“I would not recommend listening to us,” Caspe urged.
Cheadle, however, thinks we are headed for another crash and wasn’t afraid to say so. Which, eventually, will be 100% accurate.
The producers and cast also got asked if they think former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, who is on a “listening tour” before announcing his candidacy, really will make a run at the White House.
“I do like Starbucks,” Caspe dodged, while cast member Paul Sheer vowed instead to vote for “the Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf guy” if he runs, which was no sillier than the question.
Regina Hall got asked about playing a boss in the ’80s and “have we really come a long way” since that decade.
“We’re in the middle of moving a long way,” she corrected.
“I think what Regina is trying to say: yes it has changed,” Sheer mansplained, getting a big laugh.
Hall, who had mentioned how great it is to play a character who isn’t a wife or girlfriend, got asked when and how the industry came to understand she was capable of more.
“Well, once I started sleeping with better people…” she snarked.
Then she got asked, “Did you have to do a chemistry read with Don Cheadle?” to land the part.
“She didn’t have to do anything for the role other than accept it,” Cheadle responded.
Another critic asked Cheadle if, given that the two showrunners on stage were white, “do you have to coach them a little bit” on the series where “race is in the background.”
“I don’t have to coach them; they’re coming to me asking ‘How do you think this beat will play?’” he said.
Caspe explained to the critic that the show is written by “a room of terrific writers” in which “every type of person is represented.”
Critics seemed particularly interested to learn there were things Cheadle had declined to say in character on camera.
Because the show is set in the 1980s, there is “all this language used we find abhorrent right now, and rightfully so, like defamatory sh*t people would say,” Cahan said. “We had to be careful who would be allowed to say those words.”
The decision was to have villains use the vile language, not the heroes, he said. Also, no female nudity on the show, despite being “a huge part of the world.”
“We don’t necessarily want to contribute to that on TV,” he explained.
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