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An entertainment figure with no political experience decides to run for public office and ends up winning against the odds. That was the real-life narrative when Celebrity Apprentice host Donald Trump shockingly defeated Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election. That also happens to be the premise of ABC’s new political comedy The Mayor –— something the show has used to its advantage.
“Given the politics of the past year, it’s helped everybody, I think,” creator and showrunner Jeremy Bronson told reporters Sunday at the Television Critics Association’s summer press tour. “Everybody is a lot more focused on what they can do, what we can all do to sort of improve the country, improve our situations, so it gives us a lot of I would say, ‘inspiration,’ for the show, but it’s not tackling the issue of the week, nor is it a parody or a satire.”
Also executive produced by Hamilton breakout Daveed Diggs, the single-camera effort centers on a young rapper, Courtney Rose (Brandon Michael Hall), who decides to run for mayor of his California hometown as a way to drum up publicity. However, his master plan goes wildly awry, ending in the most terrifying of outcomes — an election victory. With the help of his mother Dina (Yvette Nicole Brown) and friends, Courtney must overcome his hubris if he wants to transform the struggling city he loves. (In addition to exec producing, Diggs is writing much of the original music for the series.)
Despite the real-life parallels, Bronson said the idea for the series came before Trump’s win. As a longtime producer on MSNBC’s Hardball With Chris Matthews before moving on to write for scripted comedies like The Mindy Project and Speechless, Bronson said he wanted to write a political comedy and specifically one about “a complete novice” diving into the world of politics for the first time.
“I’ve always been sort of a political junkie and a socially conscious type of person,” he said. “I knew I wanted to do some type of show about people coming together in a non-partisan way.”
Bronson and the rest of the exec producers originally pitched the idea for the show in July 2016 as “things were sort of heating up in the presidential race,” he said. “The germ of the idea for the show came a little bit before that.”
Looking at other unlikely candidates like Jerry Springer, when he was contemplating a run for the Senate, and wrestler-turned-governor Jesse Ventura, Bronson said “there are elements of a lot of those outside candidates in the writing of Courtney Rose.”
However, the showrunner avoided drawing a one-to-one comparison between Courtney and any specific real-life candidate. “He really is, this is a guy, Courtney Rose, who didn’t want to win but deeply, deeply loves this city, wants to give, is very generous, feels the pressure and the weight of the job and this responsibility that he’s been given, with Dina’s help, with mom’s help, he’s really going to be that maverick-type politician,” Bronson said. “He’s been rapping about [issues] and writing about them for years, but now he’s actually able to effect some change.”
When asked how the show will tackle specific topical issues like police brutality, Bronson said they would come up but would not be the focal point of any particular episode.
“All those sorts of topics find their way into these stories and things that Courtney Rose and his team are grappling with, so even that particular topic, I don’t want to tip my hand, but it comes up in one of the earlier episodes,” he said. “I think people will see it as a very sort of honest show, and it’s also a comedy as well. We’re using comedy as a device for sort of talking about certain issues, but I would say [it’s] less an issue show than the story about the growth of a young man and this tremendous responsibility. We’ll touch all sorts of interesting issues, not because they’re hot buttons but because they’re real and they would affect him.”
The Mayor is set to premiere Tuesday, Oct. 3, at 9:30 p.m. ET/PT on ABC.
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