American Gothic Is a Different Type of Boston Story
Movies and television shows set in Boston often include the same old tropes of bad accents and Whitey Bulger-inspired mobsters, but American Gothic plans to show off a different side of the city when it debuts on Wednesday night.
CBS’s new, 13-episode drama is still filled with crime and intrigue, but it’s a far cry from gangster-heavy projects like Black Mass or The Departed. Instead, the series is centered around a bourgeois, blue blood family named the Hawthornes who become entangled in a web of lies when they discover that their recently deceased patriarch may have been behind a string of murders.
According to creator Corinne Brinkerhoff, who previously worked as a writer on Boston Legal, this wealthy family rose to power by securing a contract with the city for a construction project which “may or may not be the Big Dig, for legal reasons.” Brinkerhoff wanted to show that Boston’s Brahmin side is just as capable of getting its hands dirty as any mobster.
“Even amid this family that has everything, you still see some of that same sort of crime and corruption, potentially worse than you might see in the Whitey Bulger-mob section of the city,” Brinkerhoff said. “We were basically interested in seeing this part of the population.”
While Brinkerhoff was happy to mostly avoid “horrible accents” by focusing on a more well-to-do family, that doesn’t mean American Gothic is completely devoid of the iconic, Southie dialect.
Actress Deirdre Lovejoy gets to play a tough, “dyed in the wool” detective from South Boston in the series opposite Elliot Knight, who plays her partner, Brady Ross (a not-so-subtle homage to Patriots quarterback Tom Brady).
Now, a Boston cop with an accent isn’t a groundbreaking idea, but Lovejoy was proud of the fact that she got to play a female version of this archetype. Except for a handful of cases like Rizzoli & Isles or Mariska Hargitay’s Olivia Benson on Law & Order: SVU, the concept of a woman detective hasn’t often been used on screen.
“Being a female detective, I feel an obligation to that because that’s a very interesting position for any woman to be in,” Lovejoy said. “Female detectives are few and far between compared to the male ones.”
The actress praised Brinkerhoff for her inclusion of strong, female characters in American Gothic, such as Virginia Madsen’s mysterious matriarch Madeline Hawthorne and Juliet Rylance’s politically-minded Alison Hawthorne-Price.
Rylance’s role, in particular, is extremely interesting because she gets to play a character running to be mayor of Boston. Even though the country is on the verge of electing its first female president in Hillary Clinton, Boston has never put a woman in the Mayor’s Office.
“For me, it’s really important to portray women in positions of power,” Brinkerhoff said. “Especially when you have people like Virginia Madsen and you have Juliet Rylance, they’re not anyone’s side kick. They’re powerful, autonomous people in their own way.”
Wanting to use her platform to break down gender barriers, Brinkerhoff also used a lot of women behind the camera, adding a diversity of voices to the creative process.
Lovejoy revealed that there were an equal amount of male and female directors who worked on American Gothic, which is rarely the case on network TV.
“It’s little things like that that I think speak to her desire to have capable, equal representation all the way around,” Lovejoy said. “That’s been a great experience.”
‘American Gothic’ premieres Wednesday, June 22, at 10 p.m. on CBS.