"Still here. One day after the next."
David Simon and Eric Overmyer’s first season of Treme was marked by high expectations - the expectations of devoted Wire fans, the expectations of New Orleanians anxious to see the recovery to Katrina’s heartbreaking devastation accurately portrayed, and the expectations of music lovers to see, finally, a television show successfully harmonize story and song. Glee notwithstanding.
I asked actor Sean Gormley about his own expectations in going to New Orleans and making what is now an iconic Treme scene between outspoken NOLA resident Creighton Bernette and the BBC reporter. Looking back on the past ten episodes, it is this standoff that epitomizes the whole series so far, a situation that motivated New Orleans viewers of the season preview to stand up and cheer. The reporter challenges the frazzled Bernette as to what exactly is worth saving in rebuilding New Orleans, voicing many Americans opinions, from the outside looking in, about why poverty-stricken neighborhoods like the Ninth Ward should be rescued and rebuilt.
The scene is at the one minute mark of HBO's "Making Treme:"
Sean did not have many assumptions coming into the filming:
“I expected it not to be too big a deal, just me interviewing some local guy - a small scene that perhaps would not even make the final cut, and if it did, that I wouldn't be shown much. It was only during my costume fitting that I learned my scene partner was John Goodman.“
This was a return trip to New Orleans for the Dublin-born actor who first went there as part of "The Commitments" band. I asked him how New Orleans appeared post-Katrina:
“We shot our scene by a canal in the lower ninth ward. The drive from the hotel to the set was the real eye-opener for me as we drove past the area that was one of the worst hit by the storm. You could see the water marks high up on now-abandoned houses. As many of the drivers and crew were locals, I got first-hand accounts of what they had been through.” (more of the interview can be found here)
A dramatic first-hand account of recovery is what Simon and Overmyer undertook this first season of Treme which wrapped up last night with "I'll Fly Away," directed by Agnieszka Holland who also directed the first episode. The season is bookended by second line funeral parades, this time a tribute to Ladonna's brother Daymo, another casualty of Katrina, much like New Orleans itself. As for Daymo's death, as Creighton says, it wasn't the hurricane, "it was a man-made catastrophe."
Daymo, possibly a homicide victim, wasn't the only a man-made catastrophe. Creighton himself was one as well. Suicide is not painless when viewed through the family's eyes, and there was not a scene with Melissa Leo as Creighton's wife Toni that did not invoke an audience resentment toward the professor for his selfishness. He did quit. There may be lots of anecdotal evidence for this storyline, however it doesn't make his family's grief any easier to watch.