The new BBC America series Copper will debut tomorrow evening, taking a realistic look into New York City circa 1864. The War Between the States is still ongoing and Kevin Corcoran (Tom Weston-Jones), an Irish immigrant, is one of New York’s finest (before that line became famous, of course). Made a detective by a very powerful man in New York City – his military buddy’s father no less – Corcoran tries to keep peace in the historical Five Points neighborhood while searching for information on the disappearance of his wife and the murder of his young daughter.
Corcoran is anything but your typical Civil War fighter turned hero; in fact, while he tries to “walk a straight line in a very crooked city”, he is more of an anti-hero, who does the best he can with what is available to him at the time, as well as his intelligence and tenacity. In order to get justice for his daughter and track down his missing wife, he will stop at nothing.
By Corcoran’s side are his fellow detectives, Francis Maguire (Kevin Ryan) and Andrew O’Brien (Dylan Taylor). Maguire is Corcoran’s closest friend and partner in the Sixth Precinct, but his quick temper gets the better of him, sometimes too often. O’Brien, on the other hand, is their colleague and companion. He has an overbearing wife, but is fiercely loyal to his family and friends.
Corcoran’s friends from their days in the war together are as opposite as possible: Manhattan aristocrat Robert Morehouse (Kyle Schmid) and African-American physician Matthew Freeman (Ato Essandoh), who was Morehouse’s valet during the war. The three men share a secret from the battlefield that links their lives together (and a service he provided to Morehouse helped Corcoran get his badge). Because of his time in the war, Morehouse is a changed man, seeing the lower class, especially the Irish and African-American, as his equals. Whereas, Freeman now assists Corcoran in murder investigations but receives no credit for his contribution (mainly because of the color of his skin – it is 1864 after all). Freeman also practices modern scientific methods of deduction in his investigative work with Corcoran.
The world of Copper isn’t just flush with men, though, as the women of 1864 aren’t much different than women of our time except they have the limited options prevalent for that time period. Case in point Eva Heissen (Franka Potente), who owns the local brothel in the center of Five Points. She is a shrewd businesswoman with a special relationship with Corcoran, filling the void of his missing wife. There is also Molly Stuart (Tanya Fischer), one of Eva’s courtesans, who has a big heart and a free-spirited nature, possessing a deep sense of right and wrong. She is adored by Maguire but she has a crush on Corcoran, which she isn’t afraid to hide.
Then there is Elizabeth Haverford (Anastasia Griffith), a British born debutante, married to a wealthy Manhattan businessman. She is sophisticated, spirited and not mindless at all; in fact, she is far more business-savvy and politically astute than the other socialites. She has an interesting friendship with Corcoran that is centered on little Annie Reilly (Kiara Glasco), a runaway who Corcoran takes under his wing after he learns she was forced into prostitution at very young age in order to survive. She is whip-smart and has a mischief streak, reminding Corcoran of his deceased daughter.
Lastly, there is Matthew’s wife, Sara Freeman (Tessa Thompson), who is scarred from watching her two brothers lynched during the Draft Riots the year earlier. She is anxious around and distrustful of white men, convincing her husband to leave Five Points to live in the African-American community in Northern Manhattan.
After having a chance to screen the first two episodes of this new period drama, I was moved by the realism of the portrayals of all these characters, the depth of the story-telling and the performances by the cast.
The debut episode entitled “Surviving Death” finds Corcoran investigating the murder of a little girl found in Five Points that hits a bit too close to home for him. And, the episode, of course, lays the groundwork for all of the characters (good, bad or otherwise).
The second episode is called “Husbands and Fathers” and shows the continuing aftermath of the little girl’s murder from the debut episode and how it affects nearly all of the characters. It also delves into the relationship between Robert Morehouse and his powerful father; and Elizabeth’s intentions before and after a tragedy in her immediate family.
Make sure to tune in to BBC America tomorrow night (August 19) at 10/9c to find out what Copper is all about. You can also learn more about the series here.