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‘Scandal’ star turns attention to justice

Goldwyn

– Tony Goldwyn has displayed a lack of ethics in the White House.

As President Fitzgerald Grant on ABC’s hit melodrama “Scandal,” he has cheated on his wife right under her nose and even smothered a pesky Supreme Court justice on her sickbed.

But in his behind-the-camera roles as producer, director and writer, Goldwyn is exposing the ethical minefields of the justice system in a fine new drama, “The Divide.”

This eight-episode series, which premiered on WE tv on Wednesday, teams Goldwyn with fellow creator and producer Richard LaGravenese (writer of last year’s HBO film “Behind the Candelabra”), who penned the two-hour debut.

Inspired by the real-life Innocence Project (which works to exonerate wrongfully convicted people through DNA testing), “The Divide” focuses on a young Philadelphia caseworker for the Innocence Initiative named Christine Rosa, who has become obsessed with winning a last-ditch appeal for a white inmate soon facing execution for the murder of a black family.

As Christine (series star Marin Ireland) and her boss (Paul Schneider) probe inconsistencies in the case, they butt heads with the city’s charismatic African-American district attorney (Damon Gupton), even as he begins to acknowledge problems with the racially charged verdict, which vaulted him to prominence a dozen years ago but, if it came apart now, could be his undoing.

“In the past,” Goldwyn says, “I had assumed that if someone’s in prison, they probably did it. I didn’t realize how much gray area there is in our justice system, and how many cracks catch people without money and influence.”

“On the show, we try to come to terms with the ambiguity of human nature,” adds LaGravenese. “In the writers’ room, I said, ‘Let’s get rid of words like ‘good’ and ‘bad.’ That’s not what our show is about.”

The two first worked together when LaGravenese did a script rewrite for the Goldwyn-directed 2010 film “Conviction,” which starred Hilary Swank in a dramatization of an actual Innocence Project case.

When that was done, says Goldwyn, “I wanted to explore the Innocence Project further. I thought a TV series would be a great way.”

WE tv, in the midst of a network-wide rebranding, claimed “The Divide” as its first-ever scripted series – a hoped-for repeat of how, in 2007, a new drama called “Mad Men” heralded the revamping of AMC.

Goldwyn and LaGravenese went back to work to beef up the narrative in preparation for adding and reshooting scenes for the pilot.

Goldwyn had landed the original deal for “The Divide” before committing to “Scandal,” but despite those “presidential” duties (which he resumes for season 4 later this month), he says the show was generous in giving him freedom to develop “The Divide.” And when “Scandal” took a two-month hiatus, Goldwyn was able to head to Toronto, where he directed the first two episodes of “The Divide” as it sprang to life again.

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