Oscar-winning Robert De Niro has come to television--as one of the executive producers of "Tribeca," the new dramatic series that premiered last week on Fox.
The anthology series, set in the New York downtown community of the show's title, was created by David J. Burke of "Wiseguy" fame. Each week, "Tribeca" will present various stories, both comedic and dramatic, about contemporary urban life. Philip Bosco, who plays an affable restaurant owner named Harry, and Joe Morton, who stars as a policeman named Carleton, are the two recurring characters. Episodes will feature such guest stars as Larry Fishburne, Melanie Mayron, Richard Lewis, Eli Wallach, Dizzy Gillespie, former New York Mayor Ed Koch and Bill Irwin.
Jane Rosenthal, along with De Niro and Burke, is one of the executive producers of "Tribeca." Rosenthal spent five years at CBS as director of motion pictures, was vice president in charge of motion pictures and television at Walt Disney and also vice president in charge of movies and miniseries for Warner Bros. Television. In 1988, she started the Tribeca production company with De Niro. Tribeca's film productions have included "Thunderheart," "Cape Fear," "Night and the City" and "Mistress."
Rosenthal discussed Tribeca's first television venture with Times Staff Writer Susan King.
Has Tribeca always been interested in producing for television?
First of all, we are primarily a film company. But our attitude is such that if the right kind of show came along, of course, we would do it. We wouldn't rule out anything. For that matter, if the right stage play came along we wanted to do, we would do that too.
How did "Tribeca" evolve? Did its creator, David J. Burke, bring the idea to you and De Niro?
David was writing a feature for us, and while he was doing it he mentioned this project to us. Both Bob and I really responded to it and said let's go. Let's try it.
Did you take the series to Fox? "Tribeca" isn't quite like other more youth-oriented Fox shows such as "The Simpsons" and "Beverly Hills, 90210."
We went to one other (network) that looked at David and I. ... They looked at us sort of like we were mad (laughs). They were very respectful of David. David is wonderful. All the networks want to be in business with him. We brought this idea to one of the networks, which will remain nameless, and they just stared at us. We went to Fox and they looked at us and said, "Why not?"
Were actors and writing and directing talent eager to do the series because Tribeca was producing the series?
What has been amazing since we have shown some of the shows is we have had a lot of talent saying, "Hey, we want to do that. I would do one of those." Chris Walken has said he is interested in doing one. When it was announced, people weren't sure what to make of it. It has really been since people have seen the episodes that there has been an enormous response to it.
It's an interesting concept to have the two main characters a policeman and a restaurateur.
We decided that these people could lead us into (the stories). Thinking about your neighborhood--in any city you have your local restaurant, coffeehouse or diner that you go to. There is the cop that is around. You may or may not know him, but you see him go by. With a policeman, he travels into different worlds and can show up without necessarily being in character all the time, but clearly being a part of the environment and a part of people's lives. And with Philip Bosco's character, Harry, people can meet in his place and come through his place. So it was really trying to use people that would populate your world without sort of (their) taking over.
New York City also is a major character in the series. But it's a far different New York than one normally sees in films and TV--no Times Square, no Central Park, no garbage.
Well, New York is made up of lots of different neighborhoods and we are showing a neighborhood where these particular people live. It is very specific.
Also, New York is a great place to live. People are always showing you garbage and crime (in New York). Yes, we have our share of (crime), but so does every major city. It can be a great place to live.
What is the main difference between doing a feature and a TV series?
Time. Time. Time. Time. Time. Time. Time. Time. (Laughs.)
What was your shooting schedule like?
Some (episodes were shot) in seven (days); some were eight. Just the number of pages you have to shoot in a day and on location. It is so quick. I think it is an absolute miracle that it all comes together. It is just a miracle.
Is Tribeca developing more TV series?
We actually have two series we are developing. They are sitcoms, and we also develop and produce features. We are currently on post-(production) on "A Bronx Tale," which marks De Niro's directing debut.
Why not (do more television)?
Even though I joke about the time element, this was a lot of fun. We just hope we have the opportunity to keep doing them because I think we will only get better.
"Tribeca" airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. on Fox.