Alfre Woodard attends a Pre-Oscar charity brunch hosted by Montblanc and UNICEF to celebrate the launch of their new “Signature For Good 2013″ Initiative with special guest Hilary Swank at Hotel Bel-Air on February 23, 2013 in Los Angeles
*Alfre Woodard has found herself a steady gig on BBC America’s crime drama “Copper,” which is currently prepping for the summer premiere of its second season.
As previously reported, the show is set in the Five Points area of New York in 1865, the year slavery was abolished. In season 2, Woodward has a five-episode arc as Hattie Lemaster, “a former slave who has recently arrived to the Five Points to start anew,” the network states. “Jarred by raucous city life, Hattie must reconcile her past against hope for a future.”
Meanwhile, “Chicago Fire” star Eamonn Walker will guest star as abolitionist Frederick Douglass.
“Copper,” BBC America’s first original scripted series, premieres its sophomore season on Sunday, June 23 at 10 p.m. The new season picks up shortly before Abraham Lincoln’s assassination, again chronicling the the struggles of Detective Kevin Corcoran (Tom Weston-Jones).
Other guest stars lined up for season 2 include Lee Tergesen (“Army Wives”) as a new criminal foe for Corcoran, and Andrew Howard (“Burn Notice”) as the manager of a budding criminal organization.
Actor Ato Essandoh speaks at the “Copper” panel during the BBC America portion of the 2012 Summer Television Critics Association tour at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on August 1, 2012 in Los Angeles
Looking for a nice change of pace on TV? Perhaps a break from the reality shows?
Consider BBC America’s first original scripted series “Copper,” a drama from executive producers Tom Fontana (“Oz,” “Homicide: Life on the Street”) and Barry Levinson (“Diner,” “Donnie Brasco”), set in New York’s Five Points, Fifth Avenue and emerging African American community of Northern Manhattan in 1864 – immediately after the Emancipation Proclamation.
Premiering Sunday (Aug. 19) at 10 p.m., the series unfolds from the point of view of Kevin Corcoran (Tom Weston-Jones), an Irish-immigrant police detective in the crime ridden slum of Five Points. After fighting in the Union Army during the Civil War, he returned home to find his wife missing and their daughter murdered. His drive to find out what happened to them motivates his quest to seek justice for the powerless as a cop – or “copper,” as he is called in the neighborhood.
(L-R) Ato Essandoh, Kyle Schmid and Tom Weston-Jones of BBC America’s “Copper”
A secret from the battlefield has him linked to fellow former soldiers Robert Morehouse (Kyle Schmid) now a part of Manhattan’s upper class, and Dr. Matthew Freeman (Ato Essandoh), an African American physician who was Morehouse’s valet during the war (pictured above).
Yes, you read right – an African American physician in 1864. Essandoh admits he was equally as shocked.
“The first thing I thought of when I got the script and I was given the part – or even before unfortunately, because of the history of our country – was there were no black doctors back in 1864. That was impossible,” Essandoh told us at the recent TCA Press Tour. “So for an actor, you need to feel grounded in the reality of what you’re doing. I looked it up, and there were actually, I think, six or seven that existed in New York. And the one that I sort of grounded myself with was this guy called Dr. James McCune Smith, who was about 60 in our time frame. So that’s where I found my anchor, and I found the reality of what I could do. Because, unfortunately, the first thing I thought was this doesn’t sound right.”
Ato Essandoh as Dr. Matthew Freeman in a scene from “Copper”
Dr. Freeman assists Corcoran in murder investigations by using modern scientific methods that were considered nonsense at the time. But all of his work for Corcoran had to be on the down low, as the police precinct supervisors would automatically discount a Negro’s pathology findings. Corcoran, therefore, is forced to take all the credit for Freeman’s work.
Dr. Freeman’s wife, Sarah, has an interesting history of her own. Her two brothers were lynched during New York City’s Draft Riots of 1863. At least 100 black people were estimated to have been killed during the three days of rioting – mostly at the hands of Irish immigrants. It is Sarah’s subsequent fear of white men that prompts their move from Five Points to the African-American community of Carmansville. (The area encompassed the upper part of present-day Harlem and lower part of what would become Washington Heights.)
Below, Fontana explains why Essandoh’s Dr. Freeman character and his forensics work is so fun to write.
*Tessa Thompson, who appeared in the film “For Colored Girls,” has landed a co-starring role in the drama “Copper,” BBC America’s first original scripted series.
British actor Tom Weston-Jones (“MI5”) has landed the lead, and Franka Potente (“Run Lola Run,” “The Bourne Identity”) will also co-star in the series co-created by Tom Fontana and Will Rokos, joining previously cast Anastasia Griffith.
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It centers on a young Irish cop (Weston-Jones) operating in the immigrant communities of 19th century New York. In her first series regular role, Potente, will play the cunning and cutthroat Eva who runs a brothel and has a layered relationship with the cop. Thompson will play Sara, a doctor’s wife whose brothers were lynched by a group of Irish during riots and will do what she has to do to protect her own.