Don Johnson: ‘Blood & Oil’ Not ‘Dallas’ Redux – TCA

Blood & Oil co-creator/exec producer Rodes Fishburne is a novelist. Reporters Who Cover Television were fascinated by his transition to television, as if they’d seen a hot-house flower suddenly turn into a dandelion. “This is the golden age of television,” Fisuburne responded firmly. “This is not the golden age of novels right now.”

“This is a great story and, for me, that’s what I’m interested in and drawn to: telling great stories with great characters and we have a great cast,” he continued, well-prepped with his answer. “So this is a triple threat for me.”

Rodes noted the Dakota oil boom is similar to the 1840’s gold rush in San Francisco, adding he’d never seen any TV show set in North Dakota. So, he said, he was excited with the idea of this “new place” super-imposed on the classic tale of boom.

Written by Josh Pate and Fishburne, Blood & Oil, centers on a young working-class couple (Chace Crawford, Rebecca Rittenhouse) who move to “The Bakken” in North Dakota, booming after the biggest oil discovery in American history, where they are pitted against a ruthless tycoon named Hap Briggs (Don Johnson) who forces them to bet big and put everything on the line, including their marriage.

Cynthia Cidre, who named exec producer and co-showrunner of the series in June, was not on stage for today’s panel. As Deadline’s Nellie Andreeva reported this morning, Jon Harmon Feldman is in talks to replace Cidre, who would remain on the show as executive producer.

“She had a personal thing” that prevented her being here today, exec producer Tony Krantz said of Cidre, formerly co-creator/executive producer of the Dallas sequel on TNT. Krantz assured the room she’s still EP on the show, adding, “she is part of the family of what we’re doing.”

Speaking of Dallas, Johnson brushed off any talk of similarity between Dallas and his new ABC series. “The only thing we have in common, tangentially, is oil is part of it. Blood & Oil, he explained, is about a boom town, and a big family, and the seven deadly sins at play.”

That was immediately followed by a question asking Johnson if he was in any way drawing on Larry Hagman’s “iconic” JR Ewing character from Dallas – the reporter having apparently not listened to the previous question and/or answer.

“Is he still here?” Johnson snarked, in re Ewing.

“In a sense he is,” the brave reporter answered.

“Not at all,” Johnson continued. “I’m very respectful, and god rest his soul. Larry Hagman,” he added, to clear up the fogged look on the faces of some of the room’s millennials.

“I know a lot of these guys,” Johnson said of his oil-tycoon character. “I took an amalgamation of these types of people and sort of rolled them into Hap Briggs,” for the series, which originally was called Boom and then, briefly, Oil.

Apparently Boom got torpedoed when they were informed there was a Dick Clark game show of same name. Nixing Oil had nothing to do with the Sinclair Lewis book of same name, insisted Fishburne, the literary expert of the panel. It’s just that they decided adding the word “blood” to the title signified “family and power and ambition” and better described the series, Krantz said.

Johnson joked they all cried and hugged when they found out Boom was toast and, Fishburne joked, wore black armbands for a period.

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