Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Treme co-creator David Mills dies

The first tragedy in the Treme series comes not to one of the characters but to one of its creators. The sudden death of one of the principal creators of the series, David Mills, casts an eerie real-world pall over this riveting tale about a city's attempt to resurrect itself. Here's the Times-Picayune story writen by Dave Walker:

'Treme' writer David Mills dies of brain aneurysm
By Dave Walker, The Times-Picayune
March 31, 2010, 10:28AM

David Mills, a staff writer and co-executive producer of the upcoming HBO
drama “Treme,” died of a brain aneurysm Tuesday in New Orleans, an HBO
spokesman confirmed Wednesday morning. He was 48.

A former newspaper feature writer, Mills went on to write for some of the
finest TV dramas of the era, including “Homicide: Life on the Street,” “NYPD
Blue,” “ER” and “The Wire.”

"Treme" is currently in production in New Orleans and will have an April 11

"HBO is deeply saddened by the sudden loss of our dear friend and colleague
David Mills," said a network statement. "He was a gracious and humble man,
and will be sorely missed by those who knew and loved him, as well as those
who were aware of his immense talent. David has left us too soon but his
brilliant work will live on."

Mills attended the University of Maryland and went on to write for The
Washington Post, among other outlets.

His first TV writing credit was for “Homicide" in 1994, according to the
Internet Movie Database.

Mills co-wrote the show's season-two episode "Bop Gun" with "Treme"
co-creator David Simon, for which they won the Writers Guild of America
award in 1995. Mills then went to work for "Picket Fences" and later "NYPD
Blue." He won two Emmy awards for co-writing and executive producing the miniseries "The Corner" for HBO.

In addition to his other credits, Mills was creator and executive producer
of the 2003 NBC miniseries “Kingpin.”

Mills was a member of a small “Treme” writing staff that also included
novelist and “The Wire” veteran George Pelecanos, and New Orleans writers
Tom Piazza and Lolis Eric Elie.

Mills said in a recent interview that he was first contacted about joining
the “Treme” writing staff by co-creators Simon ("The Wire," "Generation
Kill") and Eric Overmyer ("St. Elsewhere," "The Wire") long before the show’s
pilot was picked up by HBO. The pilot was filmed in New Orleans last year.

“I remember seeing their script before the pilot got picked up, which is
going back about three years,” he said. “Simon and I go back 30 years
together. We’re college newspaper buddies.

“By the time this new series came around, I don’t know if it was spoken or
assumed or if it was casually mentioned that if ‘Treme’ were to go, (Simon)
would love me to be a part of it, (and that) I would love to be a part of
it. The timing worked out right.”

Mills said he saw his contribution to the writing of “Treme” was as an
outsider attempting to help Simon and Overmyer interpret the show’s themes –
Hurricane Katrina recovery as expressed through the city’s musical and
culinary subcultures – for audiences beyond New Orleans.

“I will never know as much about New Orleans music as Dave Simon,” he said.
“I will never know as much about the social world and the social history and
the characters of the town as Eric. So I can’t bring any of that.

“What I can bring is the sort of simple story stuff, the stuff I would feel
like I can contribute to any show I happen to be on at any given time, which
is just, ‘How do we get the most out of these characters.’”

A music fan who wrote passionately about his love for 1970s funk music on
his blog Undercover Black Man – read it here: -- Mills had come to love New Orleans
and its music during his time here writing for “Treme.”

“I knew next to nothing about '50s and '60s New Orleans R&B, let alone
the earlier jazz that grew in the city, so this has been a very, very cool
musical education for me, the particular joy of knowing stuff newly,” he

Mills said he approached his New Orleans musical education with a new fan’s
fervor, and spoke enthusiastically about “walking into Louisiana Music
Factory and coming out with $100 of music CDs, almost like letting the
spirits guide you as to which ones to pick,” he said. “There will be no end
to it, it’s so deep.”

Mills wrote two of the series’ 10 episodes -- episode No. 3 by himself and
episode No. 7 with Davis Rogan, a New Orleans musician and former WWOZ-FM DJ
who is a model for one of the series’ characters, played by Steve Zahn.

As co-executive producer and a contributor to the show’s collaborative
writing process, Mills made his craft present in every episode of “Treme,”
which is due to complete first-season production at the end of April.

Accordingly, Mills said he was deeply curious about how “Treme” will be
received by viewers who aren’t familiar with second-line parades, Mardi Gras
Indians and the peculiar challenges of running a New Orleans restaurant
kitchen in the dark days after the 2005 levee-failure flood.

“I’ve got to say that that’s the thing I’m most curious about, because I
think it’s an open question whether it will work,” he said. “Meaning,
whether a lot of people will dig it. You just don’t know, because you can’t
say, ‘People love cops and robbers,’ or ‘People love Westerns,’ or ‘People
love gangsters.’ Here, the show is about the specificity of place. That’s a
hell of a thing to build a show around.

“Here’s one thing I absolutely know: The acting is superb, and the music is
amazing. That’s two things that I know we deliver on. And the rest of it, we’ll

"I look forward to eavesdropping in Internet forums or whatnot, or checking
out the TV critics who write online, to see what they think about the
episodes as they roll out.

“I suspect the power of the show is cumulative. We’re never going to explain
what Mardi Gras Indians are or why they exist, or what a social aid and
pleasure club is, but by the end of 10 episodes, almost without the viewer
knowing it, you’re going to just absorb the essence of the thing. You’re
going to understand the magic of the place.

“At the end of 10, (non-New Orleans viewers) will have seen maybe 60 to 70
local musicians who (they’ve) never heard of, and will have heard the full
gamut of musical styles.

“Its very ethereal, but the show is kind of about that in a way. The city is
about that. I think by the end of it, the cumulative effect will be what it
will be judged on.”

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