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Winter TCA: USA's 'Graceland' tracks crime, not white jumpsuits

January 07, 2013|By Yvonne Villarreal
  • "Graceland" creator/executive producer Jeff Eastin, from left, with actors Daniel Sunjata, Aaron Tveit, Vanessa Ferlito, Serinda Swan, Brandon Jay McLaren and Manny Montana during the USA portion of the 2013 Winter TCA Tour.
"Graceland" creator/executive producer Jeff Eastin, from… ( Frederick M. Brown / Getty…)

On USA network, nothing on "Graceland" is what it seems.

For the network that boasts an open-door policy for characters, the larger-than-life persona of the King of Rock and Roll (Elvis Presley) will not be one of its new recruits when the network's new drama premieres this summer -- and there's no Vegas backdrop or the Memphis mansion either.

The drama, which comes from Jeff Eastin (the man behind the network's mainstay "White Collar"), centers on a group of agents from the FBI, DEA and Customs who are shacked up in a drug dealer's Manhattan Beach mansion that has been seized by the government (in the show, the drug dealer is a fan of the King -- hence the house's moniker and the show's title).

"Within [the house's] walls there’s safety," Eastin told reporters Monday during the show's panel at the Television Critics Assn. press tour (coincidentally, a day before Presley's birthday). "From that idea came this sanctuary. And 'Graceland' flowed out of that."

The series, inspired by a real-life group of undercover housemates living in Manhattan Beach, stars Daniel Sunjata ("Rescue Me") and Aaron Tveit, who is fresh off his big screen role in "Les Misérables" as Enjolras (you know,  "Red - the blood of angry men! / Black - the dark of ages past").

Despite its beachside setting, the sunny skies take on a slightly neo-noir look. Eastin, who considers the "Graceland" pilot the best script he's written, said the series is a darker show than the network's other offerings. But he says the darker tone comes from reality, "whereas 'White Collar' sort of creates its own reality" -- a reality that has proved to be quite successful for the network.

"Definitely, there's pressure," Eastin said. "I think one thing I learned from 'White Collar' was to cast it right. Once the cast is set, it's 90% of the battle."

USA ushers in the new series just as it has cut ties with three others: “Common Law” and “Fairly Legal” were canceled, and the network chose not to extend the life of the limited-series “Political Animals.”  On Monday, the network announced it would bring back "Necessary Roughness" for a third season.

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