5 things to know about Jon Bernthal’s upcoming HBO series

5 things to know about Jon Bernthals upcoming HBO series

Dan Buffa, Special to the Jewish Light

If Jon Bernthal is good at one thing, it’s versatility. He played a loyal friend in the criminally underseen drama, “Small Engine Repair,” a good cop in Taylor Sheridan’s “Those Who Wish Me Dead,” and famed tennis coach Rick Macci in Reinaldo Marcus Green’s “King Richard.” But the Jewish actor adds a special spice to anti-heroes or characters who do deplorable things yet manage to hold your full attention.

Think of his Johnny Boy in David Chase’s “The Many Saints of Newark, a guy who would shoot a hole through his wife’s fancy hat to make a point. Or his recovering yet untrustworthy soul Blake in Netflix’s “The Unforgivable.” Ladies and gentlemen, all the movies I listed above came out in 2021. Bernthal could be the busiest man in Hollywood at the moment, a hot commodity who is using the newfound energy and acclaim to produce personal projects. That’s what the upcoming HBO miniseries, “We Own This City,” centers around.

Here are five things to know ahead of its April 25th premiere.

The minds of “The Wire” are behind it

Ed Burns (not the good-looking Irish-American actor, but the writer) and David Simon gave the entertainment world a television classic with “The Wire.” Similar to “We Own This City,” it included a character actor assembly of high-caliber talent, actors who could melt into the roles. And the spotlight Burns and Simon shined on inner-city violence and its racist underbelly there will definitely be a force in the new miniseries, with Bernthal’s task force coming under fire for its illegal tactics and supposed ownership of the streets.

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These television auteurs don’t take a half swing. Expect something heavy and vital. Like Showtime’s current “City on a Hill,” but with better writing and stories. A brief look at the cast-the talented Domenick Lombardozzi and Nathan Corbett shows some of the old players are involved in the new project.

Jon Bernthal like you haven’t seen him before

From the trailer alone, it looks like one of his boldest strokes yet on his 77 credit-carrying IMDB profile. Playing the highly corrupt Sgt. Wayne Jenkins, a toxicity at the heart of the Baltimore police department’s highly controversial Gun Trace Task Force, Bernthal looks like a poison pill in the middle of an ambitiously cultural storm. An old-fashioned gunslinger with a high and tight haircut that has a motley flop hanging over the top, he’s the thorn in a good cop’s side. If you look at the way Jenkins carries himself and the swagger that sits on top of every third word out of his mouth, he is the unstoppable force at the heart of the matter. Emmy award? Oh, you can bet on it.

Josh Charles fans, feast your eyes

While the former romantic comedy player grew in notoriety after his role on “The Good Wife” and was brilliant on the cancelled-too-soon “Sports Night,” I prefer him when he’s playing morally corrupt officers of the law. While viewers aren’t 100% sure if Daniel Hersl is on Jenkins’ bad boy side of the law or riding against it, Charles’ propulsive words of caution in the preview linked below hang over the show’s central message. Charles is Jewish on his father’s side and has described himself as Jewish; I would describe him as a mini Bernthal. Versatility in Hollywood is a mensch’s game, and these two have it.

Bernthal reteams with “King Richard” director Green directs all six episodes of “We Own This City,” collaborating again with o
ne of his co-stars from the Academy Award winning and much-talked-about (due to “the slap” unfortunately) Will Smith-led film. Bernthal played a nice role in the story of the Williams Sisters’ rise through the tennis ranks, as the coach who got through to them and gained the trust of Serena and Venus. In this HBO miniseries, Green gets to direct the other side of the Bernthal pancake: the dangerous one. He also directed the underrated Mark Wahlberg true story “Joe Bell,” and will next get to work on a Bob Marley biopic. He is on his way to becoming a household name. This series allows him to tell an expanded story.

A timely story

The heart of the plot should stir up plenty of emotions about poetic justice going unfound in certain crimes, most notably hate crimes against African Americans. “We Own This City” takes place in 2015 after the suspicious murder of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old black man sets off a fiery storm inside Baltimore, which sees its crime rate super-size to 342 homicides a year.

With a population tipping 600,000 barely, that’s a problem for Jenkins. Put in charge of a plainclothes unit tasked with ridding the streets of guns and drugs, he decides to exploit the crisis for his own gain. But did his bosses brush it all under the table? Once again, Bernthal is dipping into that special spice bag of antagonistic tricks in order to create a unique character once again. My eyes will be glued to the screen the entire time.

“We Own This City” premieres on April 25 on HBO Max.