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October 1, 2012 4PM EST

Q&A with Eric Overmyer

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  • Q

    Please welcome Treme co-creator, Eric Overmyer. Eric, what’s the best thing about filming in New Orleans?

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    Eric Overmyer says:

    New Orleans its own self! I mean, come on! Nowhere that I'd rather be! Seriously, it's an unbelievable privilege and pleasure to be doing a show in New Orleans. And if you have to pin me down to the very best thing, I'd say it's the people of New Orleans, the musicians especially

  • Q

    You and David Simon have worked together several times over the years – what does each of you bring to the partnership?

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    Eric Overmyer says:

    Well David and I have a lot in common and what David and I bring to Treme is a shared devotion and passion for New Orleans culture. we have slightly different backgrounds so we bring different things to the table. He was and is a journalist. I was and am a playwright. Our two different points of you are usually pretty good for the show.

  • Q

    How did you come to work on the fourth season of The Wire?

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    Eric Overmyer says:

    I got fired from Law and Order after five years - which happens to everyone who runs Law and Order. It was the same time George Pellecanos decided he couldn't do another season. David and Nina called me up and invited me to come in and I was thrilled and flattered. That's when we started talking about Treme, so it was good I got fired.

  • Q

    What is your favorite part about the upcoming Treme season?

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    Eric Overmyer says:

    Two or three things. Always of course, the music. As far as the actors and the stories go I love the relationship between Clarke Peters and Rob Brown - between the actors and writers. It's grown and become nuanced.

  • Q

    Would you ever direct an episode?

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    Eric Overmyer says:

    Mercy, no!

  • Q

    What are some of your favorite TV Shows?

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    Eric Overmyer says:

    I'm going to recuse myself from anything I've ever worked on, so Sopranos, Rescue Me, Hill Street Blues. I've been watching Episodes, and being about the TV business, it makes me laugh a lot.

  • Q

    David said: Make him tell about how he was a leading young light of the theater when suddenly after a couple St Else ep's he was redefined.

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    Eric Overmyer says:

    So I'd been writing for the theater for a long time and I got my first job on St. Elsewhere and i'd been in that job for a few months and had a play open and the headline read "TV writer tries hand at the theater."

  • Q

    Do you have any input to the music – what do you listen to?

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    Eric Overmyer says:

    I have a lot of input into the music and its really hard to choose - generally whoever is writing the episode gets the first suggestion of music. As far as my taste, classic Memphis R&B, Duke Ellington, Nat King Cole... and I like country music too.

  • Q

    What's your favorite quote from Treme?

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    A
    Eric Overmyer says:

    Desiree says to Batiste, "Get a job-job, dammit!"

  • Q

    Do you think people from New Orleans like the show?

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    Eric Overmyer says:

    I think some people from New Orleans like the show, even love the show. I've heard there are people in New Orleans who hate the show, but it hasn't been expressed to my face because NOLA people are very polite. I'm sure some of never seen it, even in New Orleans.

  • Q

    Big fan of the show! I love the work of Kim Dickens. I can't find any fan club site? I'm sure I'm not Her only fan? Will John Goodman be back?

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    Eric Overmyer says:

    I love Kim Dickens the most. She should have a fan club site. John came back once during season two, in a dream. That's probably it for him.

  • Q

    What's your favorite Treme episode so far and why?

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    Eric Overmyer says:

    The Mardi Gras episode from Season One, which depicted the first Mardi Gras after the storm. I was there and that was a magical day for New Orleans --and I think we captured some of that magic (Followed by the Mardi Gras episode from Season Two)

  • Q

    What about your past work helped prepare you for working on Treme?

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    Eric Overmyer says:

    I've been writing for various television shows since 1983 -- some great, some good, some bad. You learn as much or more from the bad ones Ive been a part-time resident of new Orleans since 1989. I guess you'd say everything has helped prepare me. I'd also say, I've learned a tremendous amount about New Orleans since doing the show -- I knew New Orleans was deep, but I really had no idea how deep until we started doing the show.

  • Q

    What are some differences between writing plays and writing for TV?

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    Eric Overmyer says:

    The similarities are pretty obvious -- you're writing for actors, creating characters through dialogue and action, shaping scenes. the differences are vast -- you're writing for the camera on the one hand, and for an abstract, imaginative, physically limited space on the other. Film/TV of course tends to be visual, so you're writing with that in mind; in the theatre, on the other hand, you're trying to create a world through language principally. I could go on and on. they're very different. The chief similarity is that you're writing for actors in both forms -- but in film/tv you're also writing for production: designers, a director, the camera, locations, wardrobe, etc. In the theatre there can/might/could be multiple productions of your play. there's only ever going to be one version of Episode 302 of Treme. And here are a couple of important differences for the writer: in film/tv as a writer (especially for a series) you have many many collaborators and much more input, both at the writing phase, and certainly in production. You have production concerns, story parameters for the particular episode that need to be satisfied, ongoing characters, etc. writing a play, you're making it up, initially, all on your own. as the play moves (hopefully) towards production, you will probably acquire a director, maybe a producer, and when you get into rehearsal, actors, who will influence your revisions. But it's essentially yours. And you own the copyright. Of course you won't make much (if any) money. In Film/TV you don't own the copyright. You are well paid, writing and producing for hire. HBO owns the copyright on every episode of Treme. Which is at it should be. They paid for it.

  • Q

    Who is your favorite character from Treme and why? Who do you identify with the most?

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    Eric Overmyer says:

    My favorite character is Antoine Batiste. He's got a big heart and a big love for life. And he screws up a lot. Who do you identify with the most? I can't say I identify with any of them. or maybe I identify with all of them. I guess Creighton Burnette, John Goodman's character. But not so depressed. No ferry boats for me.

  • Q

    As a native New Orleanian I see many similarities in the socioeconomic climates of B'more & NOLA. Is that what drew you to the Treme story?

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    Eric Overmyer says:

    Baltimore and New Orleans have some similarities: black majorities, lots of Catholics, John McDonough schools (that's a weird one, isn't it?) -- and the same problems and challenges that all American cities have. But although I've spent a lot of time over the years in Baltimore, doing Homicide and a season of The Wire and had my plays done at Center Stage (that was my first experience of Baltimore) and am very fond of Baltimore, Baltimore really had nothing to do with it. I'd always wanted to do a show in New Orleans, and when I met David (in Baltimore) I discovered a guy who hd the same idea. And here we are, all these years later, doing a show in New Orleans!

  • Q

    Who is your favorite New Orleans neighbor? I bet it's that loud, bald guy with the great laugh.

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    Eric Overmyer says:

    Yeah you right. My neighbor, Jelly Roll Nelson! Love dat guy!

  • Q

    Is there anything you've learned in working on Treme that you think should be remembered for NOLA as it stands today?

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    Eric Overmyer says:

    Yeah -- when will the city quit making war on the musicians, the Mardi Gras Indians, and everyone who makes New Orleans New Orleans? When will they quit closing closing clubs, depriving musicians of venues to play in? When will they enact a sensible noise ordinance that respects the rights of all parties, not just property owners? (I live near the R Bar -- it's noisy, but I don't want clubs closed down. I turn on my white noise machine when it gets too loud.) The way it's going, Treme may unfortunately be come to be a record of a vanished time -- "Hey remember when NOLA had clubs with live music? And musicians who played on the streets?" Hope not, but...

  • Q

    What was the most challenging part about writing for Treme?

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    A
    Eric Overmyer says:

    Getting it right. Finding the balance between fiction and fact. Incorporating the music into, and making it part of, the drama.

  • Q

    Are you a NOLA native? How hard is it to translate the culture to the screen each week?

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    Eric Overmyer says:

    I'm not a native, I've had a house in New Orleans since 1989. I split my time between NOLA and New York. my wife says we're "Near Orleanians." I think its hard to convey the essence of New Orleans on film, and I think we'e done it pretty well. I think there was a way to convey a sense of the light and the way the city smells. I think we did pretty well - I'm told the food scenes make people hungry, so I guess its pretty good.

  • Q

    What are some of your favorite New Orleans foods?

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    Eric Overmyer says:

    my favorite New Orleans meal is duck gumbo, champagne and pecan pie.

  • Q

    How do you choose which local musicians to feature on the show? Most iconic, best camera presence, quirkiest, most deserving, available...?

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    Eric Overmyer says:

    All those things factor in, but we have a list of musicians who we hope to work in. David and Blake Leyh and I all have our favorites, but we have to find a way to work them in with our characters narratives. We have a couple of musicians, 3 or 4 and we have to make it organic and natural so they are listening to or playing along with what makes sense. In the first year of the show, we were very conscious of who was back after the storm. So in Season 3, we were able to have the Neville brothers back because that's when they returned to the city.

  • Q

    That's all the time we have for today's Q&A. Thanks to Eric Overmyer for joining us. Any parting words?

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    A
    Eric Overmyer says:

    Thanks for your interest and taking the time to chat.

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