Sundance Channel taps UCA alum for wartime drama

Graham GordyGraham Gordy doesn’t seem to mind his long commute.

Living in Little Rock allows him to stay connected with his Southern roots and even helps find his voice in characters he develops for the small screen.

So far, it’s been successful. Gordy, a 2000 graduate who earned a bachelor’s degree in English, splits his time between Little Rock and Los Angeles, where he has most recently written for a television show for the Sundance network and has a pilot in the making.

He collaborated with Oscar winner and former Little Rock resident Ray McKinnon on “Rectify”, a six-episode series that began on the Sundance Channel recently. Gordy most recently teamed with Michael D. Fuller for “Quarry,” a drama about a Vietnam veteran returning home in 1973.

Cinemax has ordered a pilot for “Quarry,” which Gordy feels confident will develop into a 10-episode series.

“I feel like most everything I write is set in the South, and being a part of that and allowing that to permeate what I do is really helpful in terms of my writing, and I think it also allows me to maintain a voice that’s a little different from others who are vying for those jobs. It gives me a little bit of identity,” he said.

The main characters in his most recent works are dealing with transitions from dark periods in their lives and searching for redemption in their new lives.

In “Quarry,” the main character is a Marine sniper who is alienated by friends and family upon his return. He finds a new life as a contract killer within a network of organized crime.

The main character in “Rectify” was no less demonized; he was freed from a Georgia prison after serving 18 years on death row. His conviction overturned by DNA evidence, he faces the challenges of mending broken relationships with his family while dealing with a community that believes he is still guilty of murder.

“So many of them are like “secret life” shows,” Gordy said, tying similarities with other cable network series. “All of these people have an element to them, which the audience can relate, in terms of ‘I have a normal job, I have a family, I have children.’ As a viewer, we’re like that guy.

“You get behind it, because there’s a structure of every-day life that we can recognize, but then there’s this kind of fantasy that you live through vicariously. There’s a certain perversity to it, but at the same time it’s showing us the darker sides of ourselves so that hopefully we don’t have to engage in those as much.”

The popularity of shows such as “Breaking Bad,” “Mad Men” and “Homeland” have opened the doors for character-based stories that allow viewers to follow the characters over a longer period of time than they would be able to in a feature film.

“(With) cable TV you’re able to invest in a main character and characters, for 10 to 13 hours a year as opposed to 90 to 120 minutes,” Gordy said. “When you think about the cable TV shows that work, you look at Tony Soprano or Don Draper (of Mad Men). You’re interested in seeing what those guys are going to do for an extended period, so you can get into the sort of character and nuance and just human life behavior in a way you can never afford to.”

A number of well-known names have also moved over to producing cable shows, which helps bring legitimacy to the medium. He pointed out Martin Scorsese’s involvement in HBO series “Boardwalk Empire” as an example. “That’s how we got our new show ‘Quarry’ sold, because John Hillcoat, who did “The Road” and “Lawless,” attached himself.,” Gordy said.

The pilot for “Quarry” will be shot “in the South” beginning in July, according to Gordy, and should wrap in about three weeks. He and writing partner Fuller will continue writing back-up episodes in hopes that the network will pick up the show for a full run of 10 episodes.

“I was heartened a few weeks ago because I saw that Steven Soderbergh, who did ‘Ocean’s Eleven’ sold a show to Cinemax and they’re going to do 10 episodes,” Gordy said.

In addition to his television work, Gordy has several film credits, including “The Love Guru” and “War Eagle, Arkansas,” and has even had acting bits in “My Dog Skip” and “Little Marines.”