It's been over a year since Frank Darabont unceremoniously departed (or, rather, was forced out) as showrunner on The Walking Dead, but he's kept busy since then putting together a period crime-drama TV series with the working title L.A. Noir for TNT; in addition to, more recently, revising the Godzilla reboot script.
Darabont is confirming that L.A. Noir has been retitled Lost Angels, under threat of legal action from Rockstar over similarities to their L.A. Noire video game. He's also singing praises for the show's leading man John Bernthal (formerly known as Shane on The Walking Dead) and spilling details about Simon Pegg's role in the pilot episode.
Lost Angels is based on John Buntin's book "L.A. Noir: The Struggle For the Soul of America's Most Seductive City," about the mid-20th century battle between Los Angeles police chief William Parker (Neal McDonough) and corruption in the City of Angels - in the form of crooked cops, corrupt politicians and East Coast gangsters like Jewish Mafia boss Meyer Harris 'Mickey' Cohen (the real-world character Sean Penn plays in Gangster Squad, a film that occupies the same historical territory as Darabont's show).
Bernthal headlines the series as Joe Teague, an L.A.P.D. officer who leads the fight against Cohen and his criminal empire. Darabont offered io9 his appraisal of the actor's talents and his screen presence in the Lost Angels pilot:
"He projects this effortless masculine quality, which we don't have a lot of in movies anymore. He's definitely a throwback. He reminds me of, if you were to genetically mix John Garfield a young Charles Bronson this is the guy he's playing on screen. And it's not an effort for him, he projects this fantastic testosterone without showboating it..."
Darabont also confirmed the title change and explained the rational as follows:
"Yes, it was going to be called L.A. Noir, based on the book by John Buntin. But the video game company with the video game called L.A. Noire (with an e!) threatened to sue the s**t out of me, TNT, every company that actually ever worked in Hollywood. And they have the billions of dollars to back it up, apparently..."
The Lost Angels supporting cast includes Milo Ventimiglia (Heroes), Alexa Davalos (Clash of the Titans), Jeremy Strong (Zero Dark Thirty), Amin Joseph (G.I. Joe: Retaliation) and Star Trek Into Darkness costar Pegg. It's been acknowledged the latter is featured in a limited capacity, but Darabont has unveiled a few details that point to one of the fan-favorite English actor's more memorable appearances onscreen:
"... He plays a stand up comic in 1947. It's not a funny role. It's a serious role. He's laying down a dramatic performance in a flawless, American dialect of the era... People who are Simon Pegg fans will be blown away by what he has done in this. I am his friend, and I've always known he's a very good dramatic actor and I expected great things from him, even my expectations were knocked on my ass by how good he is. So, you have that to look forward to."
Here is a rundown of the show's pilot episode cast (via /Film):
Lost Angels stars Jon Bernthal as Joe Teague, an ex-Marine now working as an LAPD cop in an era rampant with police corruption. Jeffrey DeMunn plays Detective Hal Morrison, who heads the LAPD’s new mob squad, with Jeremy Strong as Detective Mike Hendry, Morrison’s second in command. Neal McDonough is Capt. William Parker, Teague’s boss who is determined to weed out corruption and bring down Cohen. And Milo Ventimiglia plays Ned Stax, who fought alongside Teague during World War II but who now works as a lawyer with connections to the mob. The project also co-stars Ron Rifkin playing Los Angeles Mayor Fletcher Bowron, who makes it his mission to clean up corruption in city government; Pihla Viitala as Anya, the head bartender at Bunny’s on Central Avenue, the West Coast center of the black jazz scene; and Alexa Davalos as Jasmine, a beautiful woman whose past has come back to haunt her.
Look for Lost Angels to air on TNT later this year.