*During a visit this week to TNT’s upcoming mob drama “Lost Angels,” due in December, journalists in the Television Critics Association were led through a number of sets used on the series, which is set in 1947 Los Angeles.
And one in particular stood out like a racist thumb.
The drama from Frank Darabont (“The Walking Dead”) follows the historic battle between Los Angeles Police Chief William Parker and mobster Mickey Cohen in the 1940s and ’50s.
During the tour at Red Studios in Hollywood, critics were lead through the detective bureau of the show’s police station – complete with ashtrays full of cigarette butts, wood desks with rotary phones and a cork board that depicts the faces in Mickey Cohen’s entire criminal enterprise.
We were also taken through a set made to look like a black jazz club on LA’s famed Central Ave., the heartbeat of African American entertainment and nightlife at the time. On the day of our visit, scores of black extras – looking fly in crisp suits, dress hats and cocktail dresses – filled the Cotton Club-like space that’s owned by a black character named Bunny, played by Ernie Hudson.
After they wrapped the scene, the show’s art director Alex Hadju took us into the space and allowed us to explore.
And that’s when I looked up and saw the name of the establishment — Bunny’s Jungle Club.
Critics were given only a trailer of the show before the set visit, and during a Q&A with the cast that preceded the set tour, storylines for the six-episode run (beginning in December) were kept under wraps by its writer-director-executive producer Darabont. Still, I had to ask Hadju if the club’s play on the racist term “jungle bunny” was on purpose; and if so, what’s the story behind it.
Here was his answer:
Lost Angels is based on John Buntin’s book L.A. Noir: The Struggle for the Soul of America’s Most Seductive City. Jon Bernthal (The Walking Dead) stars as Joe Teague, an ex-Marine now working as an LAPD cop in an era rampant with police corruption. Jeffrey DeMunn (The Walking Dead, The Shawshank Redemption) plays Det. Hal Morrison, who heads up the LAPD’s new mob squad. Gregory Itzin (24) plays Mayor Fletcher Bowron, a charismatic politician dedicated to eliminating the corruption that exists in the LAPD. Neal McDonough (Captain America, Desperate Housewives) is Capt. William Parker, Teague’s boss who is determined to weed out corruption and bring down Mickey Cohen. Ed Burns (Entourage) plays notorious mobster Ben “Bugsy” Siegel, while Rob Knepper (Prison Break) is Sid Rothman, a feared hit man partnered with Siegel. Milo Ventimiglia (Heroes) plays Ned Stax, who fought alongside Teague during World War II but who now works as a lawyer with connections to the mob. Alexa Davalos (Clash of the Titans, The Mist) is Jasmine, a beautiful but vulnerable woman whose past may come back to haunt her. And Jeremy Luke (Don Jon) is Mickey Cohen, the ruthless king of the Los Angeles underworld.