HBO's upcoming series The Deuce revisits New York City's Times Square in the 1970s, back when the modern day tourist trap had seedier possibilities to offer. It was populated by porn theaters, and was also a place for drug dealers and sex workers to make a living. James Franco stars in a dual role as twins Vincent and Frankie Martino, who end up using Vincent's bar as a front for the mob. Meanwhile Maggie Gyllenhaal's Eileen "Candy" Merrell is a sex worker who decides to take a foray into the newly legal porn industry. The show's setting is real, but is The Deuce based on a true story? The answer isn't a straightforward yes or no.
While the tale it tells is very much fictionalized, The Deuce is still entrenched in real events that were happening at the time its story is set. It recreates '70s Times Square down to the last detail, with director Michelle MacLaren telling The Daily Beast that "every poster and sign in this pilot is accurate." It seeks to be authentic without necessarily being a documentary or a biopic, using real people as inspiration for many of its main characters. In fact, a couple of the characters are lifted wholesale from real life, while another combines several real people into one.
Though Franco didn't share the name of the man who inspired Vincent and Frankie, he did confirm during the Television Critics Association's press tour that the twins had very real origins. As reported by Paste, Franco said, "My character, Vincent, is based on an actual guy who had a twin brother. He had run this bar around the Times Square area that was very unusual because it was a melting pot of all areas of social levels."
That cross-section of society will likely allow the fictionalized version of the bar to introduce all manner of interesting characters. Apparently the real life Vincent had a lot of material to offer, too, and he recorded 90 hours worth of anecdotes before he died. According to Franco, Real Vincent "always dreamed of a television series" that would tell his story.
Gyllenhaal's character isn't based on one specific person, but there were a few real people who went into her creation. Series creator David Simon said Candy was inspired by a sex worker and part time bartender at Vincent's bar also named Candy who became involved in both porn and politics, but that Candida Royalle influenced the character as well. "[Royalle] was somebody who found some agency within the world of porn," Simon said. "[She] started as a performer but became the director and tried, at some critical junctures, to create something maybe a little bit more egalitarian in terms of its approach to its audience."
The Deuce may feel familiar to anyone who took a trip to Times Square in the '70s, and that's because the show used enough real life inspiration to ensure that it would.
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