The folks at BBC America have a solid reputation for delivering some of the best in British comedy and drama. It’s taken them a while to finally get into the original drama game, but from the looks of it, they’re starting off on the right foot. The 10-part series Copper takes viewers to 1860s New York City, to the world of Kevin Corcoran (Tom Weston-Jones, MI-5), a rough Irish-American policeman working the notorious Five Points neighborhood. Having returned from the Civil War to find his daughter dead and his wife missing, Corcoran is driven to divine their fate, even as he investigates other crimes and mixes with the seediest sorts of New York life.
“Corcoran is a fascinating character, a hell of a lot of fun,” Weston-Jones says. “He was a boxer before he actually joined into the Civil War — he was a bare-knuckle boxer, which is almost like being a gladiator. Almost. And he uses that similar kind of process that you’d see a boxer using, going with your gut instinct. That’s what drives him, and what motivates him to do what he does in his day-to-day work.”
Corcoran pursues justice in the world of Copper with a tenacity rarely seen on the New York police force, to the point that it unnerves his police captain almost as much as it does those he goes after. And part of that pursuit has him traversing the highs and lows of New York society, from its Uptown blue bloods to the madam at the local brothel (Franka Potente). In part, it’s a secret, painful bond that he shares with two of his war compatriots — the aristocratic Robert Morehouse (Kyle Schmid) and Matthew Freeman (Ato Essandoh), the African-American doctor who slyly assists Corcoran’s investigations — that makes navigating these waters possible, and necessary. “He doesn’t do it with ease, and he doesn’t walk into any place without the fear or the threat of violence,” Weston-Jones says of Corcoran’s deftness at negotiating these disparate worlds. “He basically uses the fact that he knows these people who are pillars within those communities to dig a little deeper — actually, a lot deeper — than most policemen would at that time.”
Weston-Jones is obviously excited to see the reaction people will have to his work on Copper — by his own admission, the biggest project he’s ever taken on. But he’s confident that people will see its universal appeal. “The story — it could be any time,” he explains. “But Five Points is such a claustrophobic, interesting place to do it, that it actually fits like a glove.
“It’s a very different thing than what people will expect,” he adds. “Someone tuning in for a very comfy evening of watching people in nice dresses and costumes will probably get a sock in the stomach and be a little bit surprised at what they see. I think it’ll appeal to people in many different ways, and that’s what makes an exciting show. I hope people get to see it the way I have.”
Copper debuts on BBC America Sunday, Aug. 19 at 10pm ET/PT.
Photo: © BBC AMERICA/Cineflix (Copper) Inc.