The Hughes Brothers’ latest project Gentlemen of Leisure has come under fire by city officials who worry about the effect the new HBO drama will have on the world’s view of Oakland.According to The San Francisco Chronicle, the controversy is putting the new show’s shooting location in jeopardy, as members of the Oakland City Council and others debate whether or not to approve a film permit for the production.
Originally announced in July, Gentlemen of Leisure follows the life of a legendary Oakland pimp, as he struggles to leave the hustle.
The series, written by Evan Reilly, delves into the overall hustlers’ subculture by examining the conflict between old-school pimps and the younger guys whose approach incorporates the violence of the drug culture.
The City of Oakland’s concern is that the show will take advantage of the negative reputation already associated with the Bay Area hub and create an environment that will lead to the further exploitation of women.
That image would stand in exact opposition of Mayor Ron Dellums’ plan to create a “model city.”
The Hughes brothers, however, argue that their aim is to do for Oakland what The Wire did for the city of Baltimore by staying as true to reality as possible.
“It’s The Wire meets The Sopranos set in Oakland in a crime element never used before,” Allen Hughes told The San Francisco Chronicle. “It’s not just about pimps and prostitutes, but also about the history of a city that never got it’s due. Like Detroit or Miami and a lot of other cities, Oakland is steeped in heavy street industry, in rackets. I’m just going to say it, Oakland is a pimpin’ town. It’s flourished there. And whenever and wherever street life is celebrated, the city gets a shout out.”
In previous interviews about the project, Allen Hughes explained that Gentlemen of Leisure would be a departure from the traditional portrayal of pimp culture and would explore the human conditions it creates.
“This isn’t something we take lightly and we’re not doing a show about a tawdry pimp,” Hughes added recently. “The city is the star of the show, and characters spring forth from that.”
Even if they are denied permission to shoot in Oakland, the Hughes Brothers plan on starting production on Gentlemen of Leisure in the fall.
The show is executive produced by Interscope Records Chairman Jimmy Iovine and Polly Anthony for Interscope’s TV unit.
Iovine has voiced his interest in tying the drama heavily to Hip-Hop music.