Originally posted on Thursday, July 5, 20187 by RODNEY HOfirstname.lastname@example.org on his AJC Radio & TV Talk blog
True crime stories are like kudzu on the TV screen with entire networks and production companies catering to the ceaselessly popular genre.
“ATL Homicide” on TV One, which debuts the first of 12 episodes Monday at 10 p.m., tries to bring a unique angle by marrying the documentary style of a “Dateline” episode with a little old-school “Starsky & Hutch” panache.
Two retired Atlanta Police Department homicide detectives David Quinn and Vince Velazquez recount past criminal cases on camera as narrators while two actors play younger versions of themselves solving the crimes back in the day.
“This is like an APD greatest hits LP for us,” Quinn said in a recent interview. “This is our repertoire. You start playing the music and we’ll start dancing.”
Indeed, he added, “as a homicide detective, you learn every nuance of each case. They’re like our children. We know every birthmark, every freckle. So it’s not that hard for us to piece together these stories from memory.”
The pair were a team for about 15 years until 2015, working on literally hundreds of homicides in Atlanta. They complemented each other on multiple levels.
Velazquez, a 52-year-old security consultant, is the Spock of the operation, more analytical and more apt to use technology to advance a case.
“I began using phone records using cell tower technology before it was popular,” he said.
Angeline Hartmann, a consulting producer on “ATL Homicide,” called Velazquez “the deep thinker and very calculated. He’s always thinking several steps ahead.” (She worked with Quinn and Velazquez while at Fox 5 as a crime reporter and Fox’s “America’s Most Wanted” with John Walsh and linked the two up with Wide Net Productions to make the show happen.)
Quinn - a 53-year-old coach to younger APD detectives - describes himself as an old-school beat cop, capable of speaking just as comfortably with a homeless guy as he is with a CEO.
“He instantly bonds with whoever is on the other side of the door,” Hartmann said.
Quinn said he’s more unfiltered, more off the cuff than Velazquez.
“I gotta have someone to calm me down,” Quinn said. “I kept him glued to the streets. It was a perfect marriage.”
Not surprisingly, Quinn provides the more colorful commentary during the episodes, quick to use amusing analogies.
“You keep chasing that crack rock after your first homicide arrest,” Quinn said during the opening episode. “You’re in. You’re hooked!”
Quinn said the first episode shows the twists and turns a homicide case can take. In this case, the focus is on the murder of a single mom. There was a suspect that seemed super obvious who wasn’t the actual killer.
“That case really tested our mettle,” he said. “In some cases, you have to hurt yourself to make sure you have the right guy. It gave us pause for the rest of our careers. You don’t want to make the wrong arrest.”
And since this is Hollywood, the actors who play Quinn and Velazquez (local resident Angelo Diaz and Christopher Diaz respectively, no relation) are “absolutely better looking than we are,” Quinn said. “They’re amazing, young hungry actors who wanted to get next to us to draw from our mannerisms and vocal inflections. They don’t imitate us. They carry the story and do a great job.”
Velazquez said they went to Knoxville, Tenn. where the re-enactments were shot and hung out with the actors. “It was a little odd because they were watching us interact, trying to soak it all in,” he said.
He said he often would talk to the media to shake the trees and help solve murder cases. Many of his colleagues shied away from the press. “I’d say, ‘Why are we being such [expletives] about this? They want a story and we can use them!’”
Velazquez hopes “ATL Homicide” will better humanize actual detectives, especially for the African-American audience TV One targets.
“Hopefully we can show a different side of law enforcement,” he said, “that we can help change perceptions even slightly.”
For Quinn, re-living these cases is not easy. “I get a little emotional,” he said. “It brings back all these feelings, the pain the families went through. Some of the cases are really gut wrenching. Vince and I banged our heads trying to get it right.”
“ATL Homicide,” Mondays at 10 p.m., TV One, starting July 9, 2018
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