'Graceland' Creator Addresses Title and Tackling a Darker Tone for USA

"The one thing I learned from 'White Collar' was to cast it right," executive producer Jeff Eastin told reporters at winter press tour.
"Graceland" panel at winter press tour

White Collar creator Jeff Eastin brings his second television series to USA Network: Graceland.

Graceland, an idea Eastin brought to USA, revolves around a group of diverse law-enforcement agents from the DEA, FBI and Customs whose worlds collide when they're forced to live together in an undercover beach house in Southern California.

Graceland has a noticeably darker tinge to it (a concerted effort by the No. 1 cable network), and as Eastin told reporters Monday morning at the Television Critics Association's winter press tour, the tone featured in the pilot and trailer will be "pretty much what you see" on the show.

"It is a dark show, but I consider it a reality-based show, whereas White Collar creates its own reality," said Eastin, who called Graceland one of "the best scripts I'd written. ...There is a lot of darkness when it comes to being undercover."

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Eastin, whose White Collar was previously renewed for a fifth season, was candid about the pressure that follows being a creator of a successful drama. "Definitely there's pressure. The one thing I learned from White Collar was to cast it right," he said. "Once you get a cast right, to try to maintain the world you've created in the pilot."

Though much of the core cast, led by Daniel Sunjata, Aaron Tveit and Vanessa Ferlito, is introduced in the pilot, there is one addition that comes in episode two. "[Serinda Swan] fits in very nicely," Eastin said. "It was largely a matter of availablity. [At one point] we were worried we were going to lose Aaron to Les Miserables." (Tveit shared that he landed the Graceland and Les Miz roles within two days of each other last year.)

Swan's character won't receive a flashy entrance. "There was no big splash to bring me in," she said, revealing that one of her first scenes had her singing a song in Korean.

The title of Graceland was also addressed -- and no, it's not centered on Elvis Presley impersonators. Eastin noted that at one point Graceland was called Safe House before he decided to change it to match the "within these walls [of the beachside house], there's safety" premise. "Graceland flowed out of that."

While rookie FBI agent Mike Warren (Tveit) suddenly comes into the fray, there is much more to why he's been tasked to join the group of characters led by the celebrated Briggs (Sunjata), who commits an ethically questionable act in the pilot episode.

"That's teased out over the course of the season. One of the things you find out, you're dealing with a house who lie for a living ... you get to see who's keeping secrets, who's not keeping secrets," Sunjata said. "Briggs is an incredibly complex character. His dimensions are revealed over time, but he's certainly not what he seems."

Graceland premieres in the summer on USA.

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