It turns out it is all about who you know, after all – as Academy Award winner Stephen Gaghan is about to demonstrate, by bringing new drama White City to AMC. He will direct the pilot and serve as co-executive producer on the geo-political drama about Western diplomats and journalists in Afghanistan.
The central character will be Jon Liston, described as a ‘war junkie’ who has spent most of a decade in Kabul, up close and personal to the violence and destruction. The notable thing about this new series is that it comes from individuals who have done just that – and have spent time living in the same situation as their leading character.
Co-writers and co-executive producers Nick McDonell and John Dempsey have, it seems, pooled their collective experiences to create a thrilling new drama for the network. McDonell is a novelist and journalist with experience in Iraq and Afghanistan for Time Magazine, and Dempsey is a former Kabul resident and senior advisor to late US diplomat Richard C Holbrooke.
Former Viacom CEO and Afghanistan resident, Tom Freston – who is currently an advisor to Afghan media corporation VICE and MOBY Group – is also on board as executive producer, as is Chris Mundy (Criminal Minds). But, even with this wealth of experience in the mix, it was the involvement of Stephen Gaghan that took this project over the finish line – as the man himself explained:
“Nick and John were actually staying at my house, fresh out of Kabul, when they were going around, pitching the show. They then went on to write a truly astonishing script, which got the attention of another old pal, Chris Mundy. It reminds me of Altman’s ‘MASH’ or a great Hal Ashby script. But really, let’s face it, if Coppola was doing ‘Apocalypse Now’ today, it would be an AMC series.”
Citing Altman, Ashby and Coppola in the context of White City may sound like grandstanding on the part of Gaghan, but if he is alluding to the tone this project intends to strike, we may have something very interesting on our hands. With the Oscar winner’s name attached, we can be sure to see some noteworthy casting, too – presumably, some time soon.