From outside, a war-torn looking warehouse located on the outskirts of Toronto hardly looks special at all. But once you step inside, you can see that BBC America has obviously gone to great lengths to recreate 1860s New York City for its period drama, "Copper." The hard cement floors have been transformed into a dirty cobblestone road. A hardware store, a tavern with a freestanding bar and the 6th Precinct Metropolitan Police Station are just a few of the buildings that crowd the street. Make a sharp right and you're into a more affluent district of large houses and mansions.
Created by Tom Fontana ("Oz," "Homicide: Life on the Street") and Will Rokos ("Southland") "Copper" follows Detective Kevin Corcoran (Tom Weston-Jones), an Irish-immigrant cop doing his best to keep the peace in the rough Five Points neighborhood while seeking answers to a case that's hit too close to home.
The day we're on set, Corcoran and his former war buddy Robert Morehouse (Kyle Schmid), are out in the coach house with a few other men for an intense demonstration. The conversation is plot-sensitive, but the scene ends with an impressive fire special effect and a burning carriage. After a couple of takes, Schmid sat down to talk "Copper," and HuffPost TV spoke with Weston-Jones spoke over the phone a week later. (The show premieres Sunday, August 19 on BBC America in the US and on August 26 on Showcase in Canada.) Here are some key points to know before watching "Copper."
Meet The Boys
Obviously, Corcoran has his hands full with the volatile Five Points area, and the aristocratic Morehouse is one of the only people who has his back.
"Kevin is the eyes of the show," states Weston-Jones. "He was born in Dublin, moved to New York City when he was very young, was brought up there by his family and became a boxer when he was around 17. He wasn't incredibly famous, but won a few bouts. He got married, had a child and when the Civil War came around, he felt it was right to go into it. While he was there, he found out his wife disappeared and his daughter was dead. He came home and is trying to find any information he can. During that period, he becomes a policeman and works his way up to becoming a detective. He's incredibly motivated and obsessive about this particular trauma in his life."
"My character is a young bon vivant from the rich class of New York," says Schmid. "His father was in politics, so he dabbles in them as well. With the amount of money and history his family has, I like to consider him as a bit of a puppeteer. He's always looking for the next best way to further himself and his family, but at the same time, he's morally bound as well. He has a fairly solid set of ethics. He does care. He does want to abolish slavery. He dislikes the class separations. Inside, he considers himself a man of the people."
Back To Reality
Although Weston-Jones is best-known for the TV series "Spooks," and Schmid for his performance as the vampire Henry Fitroy in "Blood Ties," the two found it easy to go from something so heightened and supernatural to a grittier, grounded project.
"They are such different beasts," explains Weston-Jones. "'Spooks' was so much fun, and a bit of a whirlwind to me as well, because it was my first big role. I tried to play things as straight down the line as I could, but 'Spooks' is very difficult. It's such high stakes all the time. You never know who to trust. It's all written to cater to that sense of ridiculousness in never knowing who the bad guy is. Your best friend could be the worst person in the world. I didn't really find it too much of a jump going from that to this, though."
"Henry was a vampire, which is very otherworldly, but I tried to humanize him as a character," offers Schmid. "Really, the big difference is trying to separate yourself from what you would do naturally and really live that character and create something that is brand new and original."
New York State Of Mind
With its corruption and rampant crime, the 1860s New York City was not the bustling hub it is today. Instead, potential violence lurked around every corner (OK, so maybe it is a bit similar).
"It was a period of change and a period of uncertainty," offers Weston-Jones. "It's a very frightening period of time for a lot of people because the Civil War was one of the most violent wars. People didn't really know what was going to happen next. So much was unsure. The show really picks up on that. People just trying to survive and get by."
"It's interesting," offers Schmid. "Doing all the research we've done and reading all the books, I find it a dirty era, morally, ethically and physically. People didn't bathe that often. Morally, men would be married, but had multiple mistresses. Women were not expected to be educated or have opinions. The black population was considered less than everyone else, as was the Irish."
Crossing The Line
Corcoran may act as the moral compass of the series, but he is forced to do some questionable things to gather information regarding his wife and daughter. Once again, the violence factors into his deeds.
"It has something to do with that period of time because violence was very different then," notes Weston-Jones. "Violence wasn't considered as bad as today's standards. With him, he pushes the boundary of what he does to people. He will do anything he can to get the information from them. I guess some people would call him an anti-hero, but I think that's too forgiving. Sometimes you can consider him to be quite unheroic and selfish. It makes him more human, and I like playing people who have inherent flaws."
Over its 10-episode run, "Copper" will explore the social structure, politics and mentality of the 1860s, but its main thrust revolves around the lives of the leading characters.
"'Copper' is episodic, but there's also a very big arc to the whole thing," reveals Weston-Jones. "Throughout it, Corcoran is constantly getting closer and closer to the answers he's searching for. He goes through a series of things where he gets the answer he wants, hearing some things he doesn't want to hear and he sees some very ugly sides of himself. He goes through the various parts of society, from the cultural jigsaw that was Five Points, to the surrounding areas, to the very affluent posh uptown. He's sucked into all these different places trying to find any semblance of truth to any of them."
"Morehouse is searching for love, but his ideal love is respect and intellect and someone he can consider close to an equal," explains Schmid. "He finds that in Anastasia Griffith's character, Elizabeth. You see that relationship happen because sometimes what you want isn't necessarily what you get. And you see the group reunite. His relationship with Corcoran continues throughout the entire thing. He sees Dr. Freeman (Ato Essandoh) on a fairly regular basis, so you have your Three Musketeers."
It's not all fistfights and brawls, so the shootouts in such a period piece proved to be an unexpected highlight -- at least for some of the cast. In Weston-Jones' case, Corcoran is involved in plenty of gunplay.
"As soon as you start firing those things off, you suddenly revert back to being a kid playing cowboys," concludes Weston-Jones. "There's a big gun fight in the first couple of episodes that was so much fun to shoot."
"I have people shoot guns for me," says Schmid with a chuckle. "I'd like to. I pull a weapon once or twice. Morehead is more of a puppet master and a very smart man, which is why he's so interesting, as conflicted as he is. He's fully knowledgeable about what he's doing, what he's running away from and all his issues. When he needs to fight, he'll fight. He'll get his hands dirty. Like I said, he thinks he's a man of the people. But I don't have the big shoot outs like the rest of the guys."
"Copper" premieres Sunday, August 19 at 10 p.m. ET on BBC America in the US and on August 26 on Showcase in Canada.
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