Parish Showrunners on Adapting a British Hit to Vibrant New Orleans

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In Parish, Giancarlo Esposito stars as Gracián “Gray” Parish, a former New Orleans getaway driver lured back for one last job when his struggling taxi business threatens to fail. He runs afoul of Zimbabwean gangsters, the ruthless Tongai siblings, with a desperate old friend and accomplice (Skeet Ulrich). The six-episode crime thriller follows Gray as he tries to get out of big trouble, but unfortunately embroils his beloved wife (Paula Malcomson) and daughter (Arica Himmel) in the carnage.




Showrunners Eduardo Javier Canto and Ryan Maldonado, who previously produced Chicago P.D. and Tell Me a Story, adapt Parishfrom the British seriesThe Driver. Canto wanted the American version to be “unique” and “justify its own existence,” but was keenly aware of “what worked in the last version.” The opportunity was “too good to pass up in terms of being able to comment on where we’re at right now in this country.” Maldonado believes the audience will “buy in” to Gray hitting “rock bottom” and being “up against the wall” after losing “the American dream.”

Watch above and read on for our complete interview with Eduardo Javier Canto and Ryan Maldonado.


Giancarlo Esposito Loses the American Dream in Parish

Parish

3.5/5

Release Date
March 31, 2024

Cast
Giancarlo Esposit , Zackary Momoh , Arica Himmel , Ivan Mbakop , Dax Rey

Seasons
1

Network
AMC

Streaming Service(s)
AMC+

Directors
Sunu Gonera


MovieWeb: How do you go from The Driver in Manchester, England, to Parish in New Orleans with a majority Black cast? How does that happen?

Eduardo Javier Canto: I think anytime you’re adapting something, or you’re asked to adapt something, you ask yourself, what worked in the last version? What made it so beloved? Then, what can you do to advance the conversation, make it different, make it unique, and justify its own existence? I think the concept of an everyman who was caught in a situation where he was obligated to gangsters, and how he was going to try to get out from under that, was something from the original format that felt right. Then, in terms of being able to comment on where we’re at right now in this country, it felt too good to pass up.

Related: 20 Best Giancarlo Esposito Movies, Ranked


Eduardo Javier Canto: Gray’s character, who bought into the American dream, believed that if he just stayed out of trouble, kept his head down, that he’d be okay. He’d be able to take care of his family, have a business, and his family would be safe. Now, he finds himself at a crossroads. He’s lost his son to violence. He’s losing his business. His marriage is falling apart. He can’t connect with his surviving kid. He’s struggling, and he’s looking for a lifeline. Then this opportunity came in with his old friend asking for help, and that gives us an opportunity to have a discussion on what it’s like to try to make it today. Those collisions of ideas just felt right for this version of the show.

Ryan Maldonado: I couldn’t put it better. The only thing I’d add is, part of the buy in for this show, not just for the viewer, but for us, was finding Gray, this character, in a place where he’s raw. He’s up against the wall. For us to sort of buy the journey, you got to meet him at this particular spot. It’s a kind of rock bottom. That was also the ethos of that original series too, which we were able to sort of put into this one.


A Dichotomy Between Worlds

Paula Malcolmson and Arica Himmel stand together in Parish
AMC

MW:Parish’s art direction, costumes, production design, and the different camera angles going through the parades, it looks very vibrant and lush. Then you go to Horse’s house. You see the Tongais in their Zimbabwean dress. Talk about having an African theme.

Eduardo Javier Canto: It was definitely one of the things we wanted to do. This is part of the New Orleans of it, as well, to create a dichotomy between the worlds that our characters are moving within. New Orleans is a city where you’re there at night, and everything’s perfectly lit. You’re going to a cool club listening to cool music. Then the lights come on, or the sun comes out, more than likely. You step outside. You see a different version of the city. It’s not always as pretty and as glossy as you were experiencing before.


Eduardo Javier Canto: That’s sort of paralleling Gray’s journey. In terms of also showing the vibrancy of their Zimbabwean culture, the Tongai family, that was something that we were all as a writing staff very conscious of doing. We had an opportunity to tell a story with diverse characters in leading roles. We wanted to subvert expectations where we could. And showing immigrant gangsters coming to this country, thriving, having a sense of community, having a sense of culture that was vibrant, colorful, and not fetishized as exotic — I think it was very important.

Related

Parish Review: Giancarlo Esposito Is Fantastic in High-Octane Crime Drama

A former getaway driver (Giancarlo Esposito) puts his family at risk after an old friend (Skeet Ulrich) convinces him to do one last job.


Eduardo Javier Canto: Ryan and I are both Latino. My family’s from Cuba. Ryan’s father’s from Guatemala, Theo Travers, who co-wrote the show, is Black. We all just sat there and said, “Let’s just normalize this. Let’s just normalize the idea that these are characters on a TV show.” The thing that hooks everyone isn’t where they’re from, or what they look like. It’s the fact that we can all relate to the stories they’re telling.

Eduardo Javier Canto: When you start looking at Horse, you hear him talk about what he does. I don’t want to give too much away for people who are going to watch the show. But when he starts talking, it’s very clear. He doesn’t think he’s the villain of his own story. I think all of these things are interesting. They’re all part of the experience of Parish. There’s also an authenticity in the way we portray the Tongai guys.


Flash It While You Have It

Giancarlo Esposito wears a suit in Parish on AMC
AMC

Ryan Maldonado: Eddie mentioned that we’re from Miami. We’re the children of immigrants. One of the things that you see in Miami, especially with that first generation, is sort of the flaunting of money. I think that that’s a very real thing that you’re seeing on screen.

Eduardo Javier Canto: That’s definitely Zenzo [Ivan Mbakop] for sure.

Ryan Maldonado: For sure, you have to flash it while you have it.

Eduardo Javier Canto: By the way, shout out to Alec Hammond. He was our production designer. He did a phenomenal job building Khumba, the restaurant that they’re at, and obviously, the Parish garage is fantastic too. Our whole team on this show just crushed it.


Ryan Maldonado: There’s a scene in the pilot where Gray comes to Khumba to meet the Tongai guys. The contrast there from his life and now, coming into this restaurant and seeing these people in the opposite situation that he’s in, it’s captured visually as well as in the story.

MW: This is a crime thriller in the bones. That badass opening car race scene, you’re letting the audience know you’re going to rev it up. There’s no CGI here. You’re really seeing cars zipping through New Orleans, being chased by cops, and shot up. I loved the practical effects. Talk about going in that direction.


Eduardo Javier Canto: If you’re adapting a series that was called The Driver, and you’ve got Giancarlo Esposito, who is a huge gear head, you’ve got to really lean into the car stuff. You’ve got to make it real because the bar has been set. The big car chases, the gunplay, were very important to us, but also living in the tension of smaller moments. We didn’t want to lose that. Because if it’s too much gunplay, too much cars, it can kind of become numbing. We really wanted to kind of have an ebb and flow to where the tension in the series came from.

Eduardo Javier Canto: Then, when we did go and perform the stunts, Andy Dylan, who did a lot of our stunt coordinating and second unit stuff, he was very adamant about making it real. If we were going to say this is the story of an everyman getting into this situation, it had to feel believable. And if you were going to say that he was the best getaway driver that existed, the best wheelman in New Orleans at the time, you had to believe it. You don’t do that from CGI. You do that from putting a guy in a car and saying, “Let it rip.”


Ryan Maldonado: There was a moment in writing the show, where Eddie and I turned to each other thinking about this character, where he’s come from, his background, and his expertise with cars. I remember looking at Eddie and being like, “This guy knows how to use a car as a weapon.” That was kind of a guideline for us.

Eduardo Javier Canto: Not giving too much away, it’s in the trailer, but there’s a big boom in the show. That was not CGI enhanced. You can tell when a boom is a computer and when a boom is the real boom. The fireball is a real one. When cars slam into each other and are trading paint for real, you can tell. The audience is savvy. They know. We wanted to present a gritty show that felt real. It needed to be real. I would say even if they demanded CGI, we would have pushed back on that for sure.​​​​


A Tremendous Rapport

Skeet Ulrich stands by a car in Parish
AMC

MW: Giancarlo Esposito, Skeet Ulrich, and Zackary Momoh, who plays Horse, they’re incredible in this series. Talk about developing their dramatic tension because things get real around episode three.

Eduardo Javier Canto: The good thing is, they’re all professionals. They had a tremendous rapport right away. When you have clear characters with clear wants, and you put them opposite each other, you put them in situations where one person can’t have something unless the other person loses something, it becomes really easy to get that tension.


Eduardo Javier Canto: But what I would want to say is we were spoiled for choice. It’s so easy to write to people, not just Giancarlo, who’s just a TV legend and acting legend, but Skeet is fantastic. Zackary, who a lot of people might not know because he was based in London for a long time, he’s spectacular as Horse, and Ivan Mbakop, who plays Zenzo. They pop in ways that I don’t think people are going to expect, right down to the last cast member. We just had an incredible group of people working on this. We couldn’t be happier.

Ryan Maldonado: They’re incredible. There’s a different texture to all of them. But they’re all sort of their own version of an alpha. When you put those people in a scene together, it’s great because they’re able to bring something completely different, and yet feel they still have that power.

Eduardo Javier Canto: Yeah, sparks fly.

Parish premieres March 31st on AMC and AMC+. You can check it out through the link below:

Watch Parish

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