James Franco’s Red-Light District Drama Gets Green Light From HBO

James Franco’s latest project just got green lit by HBO, as David Simon’s porn drama The Deuce has been picked up to series, according to a report from the Hollywood Reporter. Franco will serve as an executive producer on the show that will be set in 1970s and 80s Times Square, and follows the rise of the porn industry. Simon is well-known for his take on mature subject matter, and The Deuce will be no different, featuring the rise of the HIV epidemic and the prevalence of cocaine, with the legalization of pornography as the foundation.

James Franco will play the role(s) of twins Vincent and Frankie Martino, major players in the financial world who broke bad, turning into mobsters that helped control the tumultuous sex industry. Maggie Gyllenhaal is also slated to star in the series as a Times Square hooker named Candy. Gyllenhaal will also serve as a producer on the project that has yet to release a premiere date or episode count.

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(Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images)

This will mark the first collaboration between David Simon and James Franco and one that will portray New York City in a drastically different light than we’re accustomed to today. In 2016, New Yorkers and tourists alike are attracted to Times Square because of its bright lights, big buildings and Broadway shows. Thirty years ago, a fledgling porn industry flooded the streets and drew a much different crowd until large cases of HIV scared many, and a renewed real estate market helped save what was becoming a polluted city.

James Franco becomes the latest Hollywood movie star to make the jump to television, ironically the medium where his star was discovered originally. Franco, along with buddies Seth Rogen and Jason Segel, among others, starred in the cult hit Freaks and Geeks, which aired for only one season, from 1999-2000. Franco, of course, has teamed up with Rogen on multiple occasions in films like Pineapple Express, This Is The End, The Interview, and most recently in The Night Before. Franco is not averse to taking on serious roles, however, as he’s taken on dramatic turns in Milk, 127 Hours, and True Story, to name a few.

James Franco at the Premiere of "The Sound And The Fury"
(Photo by John Sciulli/Getty Images)

With James Franco as his lead, David Simon is set to tackle a topic few have had the courage to before him, less with any acclaim. He recently told the Hollywood Reporter that he was hesitant to move forward with the project.

“George (Pelecanos, Simon’s co-creator and long-time partner) and I looked at each other and said, ‘I don’t wanna make a porn show. … I’m married with kids and lawn furniture. I don’t want to go there, man. That’s dark.’ “

But after going ahead with meetings and doing his research, Simon had a change of heart, though he wanted to make certain not to criticize the industry he was about to explore/expose/exploit.

“You don’t want to make porn to critique porn because that would be a venal journey — nor do you want to look down on people because that also is fairly dishonest. You really have to land it in such a way where it’s a story about people and it’s a story about markets — about the moment where something became legal and profitable and what happens to people in that environment when markets prevail.”

James Franco can only hope The Deuce will be met with the critical acclaim of Simon’s past work on HBO, which includes The Wire, Treme, and last year’s hit miniseries, Show Me a Hero. Oscar Isaac captured a Golden Globe award for his role in the latter. Franco’s next project to be released will be 11.22.63, premiering on Hulu next month, based on a Stephen King novel.

[Photo by Rachel Murray/Getty Images for hulu]