USA Network Boss: New Graceland Drama 'Has Some Real Grittiness,' But Isn't Too Dark for Us

Graceland - PilotA new trailer for Graceland — which suggests that USA Network’s new summer series is an “overcast sky show” amid the cabler’s many “blue sky” offerings — does “a really good job of capturing the tone,” series creator Jeff Eastin said Monday at the Television Critics Association’s winter press tour in Pasadena. But is that tone in keeping with the USA brand?

Eastin first gave USA Network White Collar, which revolves around an FBI agent and the world-class con man who assists him. Graceland, meanwhile, concerns a beach house that serves as home base — and home– to an “all-star team” of agents from the FBI, DEA and U.S. Customs. But despite its seemingly sunnier, Southern California setting, the new drama is perhaps USA’s darkest fare to date.

“It is a dark show, but I consider it a more reality-based show” compared to White Collar, Eastin said. “This one we try to make as real as possible.

“What I’m really proud of it’s that its not just a dark show, but it’s a pretty funny show,” Eastin added. “But instead of the laughs coming out of jokes, it comes out the reality of what it is” — as assembly of disparate types and personalities living under one roof.

“It’s not typical television storytelling,” said Aaron Tveit, who plays the titular house’s new arrival, a rising star FBI agent. Castmate Vanessa Ferlito echoed that point, saying that whereas the likes of CSI: NY (where she once hung her hat) are “about the crime, this is about our characters, our life together. It’s very different, very unique.”

Daniel Sunjata (Rescue Me), Brandon Jay McLaren (The Killing), Manny Montana (Chicago Code) and Serinda Swan (Breakout Kings) round out the ensemble of roommates.

Is Eastin’s latest too different for the USA brand? Speaking with TVLine, network co-president Jeff Wachtel contended that Political Animals last year dipped its toe into “some pretty dark places.” And just as that show enjoyed the gloss of its D.C. setting, Graceland “has the warmth and the vulnerability” of its beach house environs.

“If we were only going after drug dealers and the Russian mob, then [Graceland] would be purely a dark show and maybe out of our comfort zone,” Wachtel continued. “But one of the things we always look for is … a place for characters to live and thrive, and that means a place that has something aspirational to it, where people are trying to make a difference. So while it has some real grittiness to it, [the agents] come home and make sauce…. They live together.”

Graceland premieres this summer; TVLine will share the aforementioned new trailer as soon as it becomes available.

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