Idealistic: Tenants in a Brooklyn apartment building forming a conflict-free, family-esque bond, despite their differences. Realistic: The struggles they each keep behind closed doors.
"The Village" joins NBC’s teary Tuesday nights with the stories of 10 diverse New Yorkers strung together by their locale. It’s comparable to — but not a replica of — "This Is Us," with "Gilmore Girls" and "Melrose Place" influences.
"If you’re going to be compared to another family drama, ‘This Is Us’ is a pretty nice show to be compared to," says actor Warren Christie, one of the occupants of the six-story complex, appropriately named The Village. "There’s a lot of heart and hope, and I think that’s where the comparison comes in … but I do think we’re quite different in how we approach things and how our storylines intersect."
Christie ("The Resident") gives the series the momentum needed to kick-start the pilot. His wounded veteran character Nick Porter moves into the building with all costs covered, thanks to the generous landlord, Ron Davis (Frankie Faison).
‘An ideal world’
He makes slow connections with his neighbors: A single mom and teenage daughter who loosely channel Lorelai and Rory Gilmore, a husband and wife dealing with illness, a law student and his elderly grandfather, an immigrant mother detained by ICE, and an NYPD officer.
"You’ve got so many access points. There are so many different families you can relate to," he says. "I think that’s what’ll draw you in, but the hope after that is that it interests you to care about a storyline you might not have cared about on paper."
Christie admits the script takes creative license with the bond of love these characters form in a city stereotyped as being rough around the edges. A native of Belfast, United Kingdom, the actor only spent six months in Brooklyn filming the series.
"More and more, we’re realizing how people can come together," he says. "It’s obviously a very ideal world that this is set in, but maybe, also, it can be a bit of a heightened representation about what the world can be."
Essentially, the residents form a chosen family, hiding their own secrets that allow timely discussions of racial issues, immigration, teen pregnancy and animal rights.
"A lot of people are assuming we’ve got this cry-fest of a show," Christie says. "Don’t get me wrong. There are heavy moments because that’s life, but even in life, you can balance them out with funny and light moments. There’s a great balance to it."
You may not always need the tissues watching "The Village," but Christie’s character’s journey definitely tugs at the heartstrings.
Nick returns to Brooklyn after losing his leg and struggles with PTSD.
"You want to do the character justice. Playing a veteran there’s a certain responsibility with it," he says. "We wanted to show the struggles, but also the strength."
Christie worked with an on-set military consultant, Jamel Daniels, to maintain accuracy and honor in his representation of PTSD. Daniels, an Iraq War veteran, suffered an injury similar to Nick’s.
"He really helped to color this character," Christie says. "He’s a man who’s just trying to start the next chapter of his life. Yes, he has this injury, but it’s not just who he is. That’s what we really try to tell."
The actor shares most of his scenes with a furry co-star, a German shepherd named Magnum who portrays Nick’s military dog. He’s also an amputee.
"He wasn’t an actor dog. Looking for a three-legged dog was very specific, so he was learning a bit on the fly."
A few on-screen tricks helped create a quick bond between Christie and Magnum — like peanut butter treats to entice a warm greeting.
"We got to a place where later in the season we formed a bond," he says. "He does keep you on your toes, sometimes he’d just go left when I’m going right … But when he came on set everyone just lit up."
ON TV: "The Village" airs Tuesday nights at 10 p.m. after "This Is Us" on NBC.