Mike Flynn, who grew up in Atlanta, has co-created a new police procedural for CBS called “East New York.”
It is debuting Sunday, Oct. 2 at 9:30 p.m. after “The Equalizer” and starring Queen Latifah. (NFL football has pushed back the schedule about 30 minutes.)
Amanda Warren (”The Leftovers,” “Dickinson”) plays the smart, confident but weary Regina Haywood, the new precinct officer in East New York, a gritty blue-collar Brooklyn neighborhood that has yet to be gentrified and has its fair share of crime and poverty issues.
Haywood’s boss is Chief John Suarez, portrayed with studied gravitas by “NYPD Blue” vet Jimmy Smits, who grew up in East New York. Her right-hand man is character actor Richard Kind (”Mad About You”), who channels his own naturally quirky persona with a deep love of classic cars.
She faces standard skepticism as she experiments with different ways to better interact with alleged criminals and the community at large. She excoriates a pair of detectives for resisting a suspect’s request for an attorney. She seeks volunteers for cops to live rent free in the projects (and a young white female cop takes her up on the offer.)
Effectively, Flynn said, she sees everything through the lens of a Black woman in a world dominated by men.
Recently, John Oliver on his weekly HBO show did a long story arguing how “Law & Order” and its spinoffs made cops look good in a way that was potentially more propagandistic than realistic. “East New York” is well aware of that murky minefield.
The police drama was first conceived in 2019 before the George Floyd protests and the concurrent reckoning about police treatment of Black people. “We want to be sure we are telling the right stories and reflect what was happening in our country,” Flynn said.
He plans to tell more stories of criminals and victims who are Black and brown, to show how they are treated by media and cops alike compared to those who live, say, in the ritzy Upper East Side of Manhattan.
Variety magazine TV critic Daniel D’Addario said the show, based on the pilot, is “relatively careful in its presentation of cops and policing as flawed tools in need of rethinking, and boasts a charismatic lead who can make you believe, for an hour of primetime, that such change might be possible.”
“I was always an observant person,” he said. “I like to study personalities and egos and that’s how I look at the world. I build characters based on individuals I’ve crossed paths with.”
After majoring in film studies at San Diego State, he ventured to Hollywood and climbed the ladder, starting as a production assistant and eventually landing a writing assistant job on the short-lived ABC drama “Life in Mars” (2008-09) that got him his first episodic writing credit.
He kept writing and networking, landing writing jobs with OWN’s “Greenleaf,” shot in Atlanta, and “Queen Sugar.” With ABC’s “Big Sky” and Starz’ “Power Book III: Raising Kanan,” he also added executive producing duties. This all set the stage for “East New York.”
“I feel like I stepped into head coach of an NFL team,” Flynn said. “It’s very refreshing to get to this point. It’s been a big learning curve. It’s a lot of pressure. But it’s good pressure.”
Rodney Ho writes about entertainment for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution including TV, radio, film, comedy and all things in between. A native New Yorker, he has covered education at The Virginian-Pilot, small business for The Wall Street Journal and a host of beats at the AJC over 20-plus years. He loves tennis, pop culture & seeing live events.