A marine named Mac (played by Logan Marshall-Green, with a very thick mustache) returns to his hometown of Memphis from Vietnam in 1972, but doesn’t exactly get a parade and a kiss on the cheek.
To make things worse, he’s expected to just go back to civilian life with his wife Joni (played by Jodi Balfour), though he has very few prospects for making a decent living. He can’t exactly apply for a job at the local Safeway, maybe because he was involved in some seedy, not-exactly-legal, potentially violent events overseas, events that he was cleared of any wrongdoing for but which continue to haunt him. So what’s a man to do when his country doesn’t respect him and he can’t forgive himself? This is the opening salvo of Quarry, Cinemax’s new drama created by Little Rock Native Graham Gordy and Michael D. Fuller.
The show is loosely based on the series of novels of the same name written by Max Allan Collins about the Dixie mafia in the 70’s. “As you’re reading,” Gordy explained, “you realize [Mac is] suffering from PTSD at a time when there’s no acronym for it.”
While the show is a period piece about pre-Nixon America, the story certainly has a number of parallels to today. “We started [writing] this four or five years ago, [while] the country [was] in a terrible recession, ending a war that we don’t want to be a part of,” Gordy said. “And for a while [we asked ourselves] ‘do we want to move this up to the present?’ Then [we realized], no, this actually is a lot more significant.”
Indeed, Quarry is full of characters with questionable moral codes populating a dark, gritty landscape, which probably says more about present-day America than any of us are willing to admit. And while all of this may sound depressing, the show is not without its lighter moments. Without giving too much away, Gordy explained how he and the writers attempted to add levity to a very heavy program. “There are very desperate moments in this, but the thing that we would always say in the writers’ room is empathy is a muscle and it needs relief. So we tried to find, within the network of criminals and different personalities and characters, ways to lighten the mood a little bit.”
To capture the grime of the crime novels, Gordy and the crew filmed throughout several places in the south. “When we first shot the pilot, we got in a bus and toured and went through [the mid-south] and we almost shot in Little Rock. There [are] scenes you’ll see in the pilot and the finale that take place in a quarry that we actually shot in Batesville.” After shooting the pilot, the crew moved down to New Orleans. “The sound stage stuff was done there,” Gordy said, “and a couple of houses that we rented, and then we came to Memphis and shot a lot of exteriors.”
The first episode of Quarry, titled “You Don’t Miss Your Water” (a nice shout out to Otis), airs Friday, Sept. 8, at 9 p.m. on Cinemax. Keep your eyes peeled for that Batesville quarry, and tune in to get lost in the characters and story.