Edward Burns writes what he knows and loves in TNT's new cops-and-mobsters drama, "Public Morals"

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20 August 2015

TNT, 10:00 PM ET, Aug. 25
By Lori Acken

To ask Edward Burns how long he has been working on his richly detailed new TNT drama “Public Morals,” which premieres Tuesday, is a complex thing. After all, Burns is a proud Irish-American and native New Yorker, raised up on Long Island as the son of an NYPD cop and the great-grandson of a bona fide Hell’s Kitchen bruiser.

Thus, the Catholic schoolboy turned respected actor/filmmaker has always had tales of Irish-American cops and criminals percolating in his mind — and spilling out into screenplays. And now he has 10 episodes, a stellar cast rich with the New York-bred talent he insisted upon and the support of executive producer Steven Spielberg to flesh out those stories into a juicy character study saturated with the sights, sounds and social studies of the Big Apple in the early 1960s.

After meeting Burns’ dad and uncle (also an NYPD cop) on the set of 1998’s “Saving Private Ryan,” Spielberg encouraged his multitalented young star to write about guys like them. “A lot of the stuff you’ll see in the series, it’s my memories of what it was like to grow up in a cop house and the talks that my father and my mother had with us,” says Burns, who also plays the show’s streetwise vice cop and devoted family man Terry Muldoon, a guy determined to protect his extended clan and his home turf from warring factions of the Irish-American mob.

“When I started writing, I had this idea of doing this story more like a Western set in Hell’s Kitchen — the idea of the gamblers and the gunslingers and the whorehouses and the lawmen who played by their own set of rules,” Burns says. “In Hell’s Kitchen, you grew up with your gang of friends and, back then, these working-class men would either join the cops and the firemen or, a lot of times, become gangsters. You would find yourself at a bar on a Saturday night hanging out with the guys you grew up with, only half of them are cops and half of them are gangsters. On Monday morning they’d be fighting it out again.”
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