First look: Trailer unveiled for Pittsburgh-themed 'Mulligan' proposed TV drama series
At 28, actor-turned-writer Patrick Cannon is well on his way to realizing a dream he's had since he was a kid: creating and starring in a TV show about his hometown of Black and Gold — in all its grit, glory, affinity for the underdog and low tolerance for jagoffs.
On Monday, Cannon and AKA Studio Productions shared with the Tribune-Review an exclusive sneak peek at "Mulligan," a proposed TV drama series filmed in greater Pittsburgh by a predominately local crew and cast — including several of Cannon's childhood friends and a few dozen others with years of experience in Pittsburgh's acting and stagecraft scenes.
Following an intense two weeks of filming this past fall and a few months of editing, the still-under-wraps, 53-minute pilot episode is complete and ready to be shared with potential buyers.
"As corny as it may sound, it's a dream come true, to be able to make art with some of my best friends in the world," said Cannon, a West Allegheny High School graduate who grew up in Imperial and Sheraden and now splits his time between Pittsburgh and New York.
"What really excites me are possibilities and the opportunities that Mulligan could provide for the city of Pittsburgh and for our artistic community," said Cannon, who continues to act while working on the pitch. He wrapped a month-long run playing Marcellus in Shakespeare's Hamlet at Pittsburgh Public Theater on Sunday. "Projects like Mulligan, if they get into the right hands, could be the catalyst for a lot of independent work being done in Pittsburgh by Pittsburghers."
'Mini golf, big drama'
The proposed show's premise: Top 15 professional golfer Jack O'Mally (played by Cannon) gets released from an Allegheny County prison after falling into a downward spiral in his personal life and serving time for his second DUI. He returns to his family-owned driving range and miniature golf course — set at Scally's Golf and Training Center in Moon Township — to confront the troubles of his past and attempt to improve himself, regain the respect of his loved ones and fans and perhaps even win back his estranged love interest.
The character-driven drama speckled with dark comedy explores damaged relationships and second chances against the backdrops of Pittsburgh and the world of professional golf.
Have a look at the newly released 90-second trailer for yourself:
'Don't be a jagoff'
If "Mulligan" makes it onto a major network or streaming platform, some Pittsburghers could find it worth watching if only for the homage it pays to the City of Rivers and Bridges.
"Pittsburgh is as much a character in the pilot as anyone," director Steve Parys of Pittsburgh said.
The opening credits and scene transitions take viewers on scenic drives and fly-overs showcasing panoramic sunsets over the Downtown Pittsburgh skyline, Rivers Casino, Heinz Field and the Ohio and Allegheny rivers.
Planes traveling to and from the Pittsburgh International Airport can be seen soaring by as golfers tee up at Scally's (renamed O'Mally's for the show).
Several golf employee characters frequent Barto's Lounge, a very real dive bar in Coraopolis.
And the dialogue contains plenty of yinzer-centric references — from the Parkway West to Eat'N Park to off-brand Pirates and Pens gear.
"Don't be a jagoff," Nick O'Mally warns his younger brother, Jack, shortly after picking him up from prison outside what's actually Allegheny County Jail.
As the show's creator, Cannon had the advantage of a close-knit cast and crew and writing parts and lines for people he knew. Multiple characters had no need to fake an accent or feign chemistry because they've grown up in the region and already known each other for years.
"From an acting standpoint, it was strange because I'm kind of acting with all of these people and relationships that I've built," Cannon said. "That's one thing that we have over Hollywood — my three best friends in the world play my ex-girlfriend, my older brother and my best friend. You don't really get that.'"
Aiming for authenticity
"Mulligan" marks Cannon's first foray into writing for television.
Cannon — who's on track to earn his master's degree in fine arts from Point Park University next year — has the production backing of AKA Productions' Ashley Kate Adams . Adams, 30, of New York is Cannon's girlfriend and an award-winning actor/producer in her own right with roles in "Pitching Tents," "Rules of Cool" and Tina Fey's Netflix hit "Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt." She recently took home the award for best actress at the New York Theatre Festival for the play "Love," in which she starred opposite Cannon.
Adams also co-stars in the "Mulligan" pilot as Jack's apparent ex-girlfriend, Mona.
After working on the "Mulligan" script on and off for two to three years, Cannon galvanized momentum by securing his top choice of Parys as the director, whose 30 years of behind-the-scenes credits include films such as "The Chief" and "Concussion" and TV shows such as "Outsiders" and "Foxcatcher."
"I get scripts all the time, and they range from grade A to grade Z," Parys told the Trib shortly before "Mulligan" started filming in October. "And there's a lot of fun Pittsburgh scripts — but they are very cartoonish and they take everything about Pittsburgh and make it like a caricature."
Rather than spotlight Pittsburgh's fastest-growing and trendiest neighborhoods — e.g. East Liberty, Lawrenceville — "Mulligan" takes viewers into the not-so-rejuvenated pockets of the city and its suburbs. The pilot episode hints at suspenseful subplots and complex characters caught up in cycles of poverty, crime and drugs.
Cannon said he wanted to highlight Pittsburgh for its beauty and down-to-earth people, but he didn't want to shy away from tough realities — such as the heroin epidemic devastating many parts of Western Pennsylvania and the rest of the nation.
Finding a home platform
Now begins the hustle to find a home for "Mulligan."
Parys, Cannon and Adams say they're open to exploring potential deals with traditional TV networks as well as streaming platforms such as Hulu and Netflix. Over the coming weeks and months, they'll be promoting the pilot episode via film festivals, meetings with industry contacts and a media blitz.
If they succeed, the trio envisions a series they believe could provide one of the most nuanced, authentic portrayals of Pittsburgh on TV yet. The one non-negotiable: It must be filmed in Pittsburgh, preferably using a mostly local team.
Both Cannon and Parys are big fans of the hit NBC series, "This is Us," for instance, but they lamented that though it's set in Pittsburgh, most scenes are filmed on sets in Los Angeles.
"I understand that's what's been done in television for years, but I don't know how you make Pittsburgh on a stage in LA," Adams said. "It's just not going to be as authentic."
Natasha Lindstrom is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 412-380-8514, firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @NewsNatasha.