Ed Burns on the Phone Call With Steven Spielberg That Lead to TNT’s ‘Public Morals’

“‘I love this Eddie, I’d like to get involved, let’s help get this made,” the filmmaker tells TheWrap of his “Private Ryan” mentor’s reaction to TV project

Ed Burns is a native son to independent filmmaking, but soon he’ll be a player in the cable prestige drama game with TNT’s “Public Morals.” As it turns out, the project came together with the help of an old friend — Steven Spielberg.

The upcoming drama was partially adapted from a police screenplay Burns had written for DreamWorks after the men filmed 1998’s Oscar-winning “Saving Private Ryan.”

“I called up Steven and said, ‘I’m doing this thing for TNT. I know how much you loved the old cop script, I’ve kind of reimagined it a bit. Would you mind taking a look?’ Since ‘Private Ryan’ he’s been a bit of a mentor to me,” Burns told TheWrap.

“He called back and said, ‘I love this Eddie, I’d like to get involved, let’s help get this made,” Burns said.

Burns is creator, director and star of the show executive produced by Spielberg, about a police unit that serves as a skewed moral compass in Hell’s Kitchen, New York in the ’60s. Inspired by the DreamWorks script and additional projects Burns had written over the years, he said the guidance of Spielberg made the process a “charmed experience.”

The result is a sleek, violent tale co-starring Neal McDonough, Elizabeth Masucci, Michael Rappaport, Ruben Santiago-Hudson and Austin Stowell.  Watch a Red Band trailer here.

Burns faced an interesting challenge in making the series — having too much money to execute his vision.

“It took me a couple of episodes to finally take off the indie filmmaker coat and realize, ‘I do have the time to go for that shot, that location, to dress it — I can have 200 extras in period clothes! In period hair and makeup!'” he said.

“I had to get comfortable not always being hat in hand. It felt great, I hope I never have to go back.”

Burns is already engaged writing the second season, but as he tells it, his 9-year-old son Finn is demanding a more modern project on his hiatus.

“Basically, every time my son watches a new Marvel movie he says, ‘Dad, when are you going to do something cool like that?'” Burns said.

And would he slip into the spandex of his peers Chris Hemsworth, Anthony Mackie or Jeremy Renner?

“Absolutely. I would love to do a superhero movie,” he said.

“Public Morals’ premieres August 25 on TNT. 

ed burns public morals