Everyone knows that TV’s where it’s at these days when it comes to quality, long-form dramatic storytelling.
And if you’re going to make the leap to the small screen there’s not a better person to do it with than David Simon, creator of “The Wire,” who returns to HBO with the miniseries “Show Me a Hero,” premiering this Sunday at 8 p.m.
Alfred Molina, veteran of stage and screen, understood this, and so he plays Yonkers politician Henry J. Spallone in this six-part program starring Oscar Isaac and concerning the fight over desegregating public housing in that Westchester County city during the late 1980s.
amNewYork spoke with Molina, 62.
Television really is a big draw these days.
Years ago, I remember having a conversation with Marshall Brickman, who wrote many of the early Woody Allen movies. At the time, he was writing something for HBO and HBO was just on the cusp of doing original stuff for itself. It wasn’t just sports and movies. And I asked him, “What was the attraction”? And he rather flippantly said, “I can say [expletive].” … It revealed a real truth about working on cable TV: That there is a freedom.
This is rich, dense material.
This kind of story has always fascinated me. Stories that have any kind of political or cultural context are always very, very interesting.
What interested you about this one?
It was an interesting take on how career politics does change people. Not just the way they look. Every politician I’ve watched over the years, certainly American presidents, especially two-term presidents, they age significantly due to the pressures of the job. All that I found very interesting.
To what extent was your take on Spallone shaped by research?
When you’re playing someone who actually existed, or who does exist … You do have a responsibility to not misrepresent the truth. And that would apply whether you’re playing Mother Teresa or Adolf Hitler.
When you do a piece of material that’s so rich, is there any extra level of satisfaction?
There’s always a certain amount of satisfaction that’s heightened when the project itself has some value or meaning. … There’s certainly a lot of satisfaction in being among people whose work you admire and whose work you respect and becoming a part of their continuum.