Fansided was able to interview Jason Hervey, producer of ‘Outlaw Country’ and former ‘Wonder Years’ star, regarding his new show about The Alliance of Buckner, Missouri and the law that keeps them in check.
Buckner, Missouri may seem like your run-of-the-mill Midwestern town and in many ways it is. With a population just north of 3,000, the town is located just outside of Kansas City. While the citizens of the town work hard in their day-to-day lives, what goes on beneath its surface is anything but normal.
Outlaw Country also tells the story of two sets of brothers: Mike and Steve Cook, who together are the Chief of Police as well as the head of the Buckner Criminal Task Force, and John and Josh Monk, brothers who are in the heart of the town’s criminal world.
I had a chance to talk to Jason Hervey (The Wonder Years, Scott Baio is 45 … and Single) about the idiosyncrasies of producing the show as well as his experiences in the industry.
You’ve been involved with video productions for a while haven’t you? You started at 17-years-old in fact.
Yeah, [Wide World of Kids] was my first project. Most everyone in my family is on the business side of the entertainment business. So it was actually more odd for me to be the black sheep of the family. You know? I wanted to be an actor, and everyone else in the family was like “okay?” But even as an actor and doing the Wonder Years, I was always more interested in the network executives, and the writers and producers, and how the show comes together and all the different steps of the process.
On the other side of that, Fred Savage was equally as curious as I was about the business, but for him it was directing. So he was always talking to our directors and messing around with the cameras and the lenses. We actually had this pact together as kids where he said, “Okay, I’m going to be Ron Howard and you’re gonna be Brian Grazer.” And we shook on it! Not really having any clue what it was going to take to be the legends that those two guys are. But that’s what we dreamed of being. He wanted to be a director and I wanted to be a producer.
So you were initially drawn towards it because your family was involved in it then?
Yeah, I was always around the business side of it so I was always curious. My first project was Wide World of Kids and from there I did a bunch of sports biographies for Fox Sports Net. From there I met my now business partner Eric Bischoff in 1991, and he saw what I was doing with the sports biographies … After we did all those sports biographies, that attracted Peter Gruber who, at that time, was chairman-of-the-board of Sony America. He was transitioning into a company called Mandalay and I became a founding partner of Mandalay sports.
I was responsible for all of the sports entertainment and we did a bunch of great projects. Eric and I one day teamed up and said, “Hey we’ve been working with each other but collaborating on projects, why don’t we just go into business and do this for ourselves?” And never looked back.
That’s great that you were able to use that spark to start it on your own. How did all of this lead you to do Outlaw Country?
It’s really the culmination of everything. I can’t speak for the company but I’ll speak for myself personally, I think Outlaw Country is my best work. I couldn’t be more personally proud of the show. We went through great lengths to make this look like no other reality show before us. The team that came together were all united by the vision to make this the best looking thing that any of us have ever done. So when you see Outlaw Country the look and feel of it is like no other reality show ever before it.
From hidden cameras, to drones, to tapping into the city’s surveillance, we captured so many moments because we utilized all this current technology. This show wouldn’t have been possible several years ago because then you would have been catching up with the action as opposed to watching it go down in progress. So the look is beautiful.
The access we had to these two sets of brothers on opposite sides of the street and the law let us into this world. Usually, in a documentary series, it’s from the point-of-view of one side or the other. What makes Outlaw Country so special is that we have the rare opportunity to be inside both of these camps and tell two stories that collide.
Last but not least is the soundtrack of the series which will be available on iTunes on February 23rd. Every episode features a signature song, and actually if you watch the Behind the Scenes video, you’ll hear Bad Blood which really dug into the making of it. You see a segment in there where we went to a recording studio in Nashville and followed a guy named Buddy Hyatt, who is an amazing musician and producer, and he talks about the sound of Outlaw Country. If you just listen to the show, you’ll find that the music really plunges you into the grit and feel of this world.
So when you add up the cinematography and the story we’re telling with the sound of it, whatever list of shows you have to watch, you’re going to want to add Outlaw Country to the top of it.
Going off of that though, the show deals with a really sordid subject matter. Why did you choose to explore the story of Buckner, MO?
Well, it chose us so to speak. (laughs) We got a phone call from someone we worked with who was friends with the mayor of Buckner, which is a great little town in middle America with wonderful citizens and terrific mayor, and the chief of police as well as the head liaison of the Buckner Criminal Task Force. He explained to me the recent surge in crime in that area and what the mayor was proactively doing to restore the town.
I was fascinated with this on a personal level. I mean, I like shows like that. I’m a fan of the genre. So myself and our technical advisor hopped on a plane and went down there and met with these guys. As they gave us the lay of the land, I asked, “You got to have suspects. What do you attribute all this to?” And that’s when they started talking about the Monk brothers.
Originally, it was going to be solely through the lens of the task force. But we got a phone call from the Monk brothers. They told us that they wanted to sit down, so our advisor and I went to Revelation Tattoo Shop and found ourselves in the basement at 2:30 in the morning. I met the Monk brothers and the other members of the Alliance and they laid it out to us, “Look, word is you guys have this reality show with the task force and crime in the town, so we’re pretty sure our names came up in one way shape or form. So rather than you or the task force telling our story for us, we want to tell the story ourselves.”
So I said, “Okay, so usually with guys with your alleged reputation –” and they said, “No, we earned our reputation. We’re not going to run from it. We’re not doing anything wrong and we want to be a part of it.”
So naturally we jumped at the opportunity. What’s really fun for the viewer is that it started out as “Whose side are you on? Team Cook or Team Monk?” But as soon as they started seeing clips from it, what it turned into, “Who do you believe?”
Mike Cook said it best: I don’t judge a man’s heart. Only his actions.” And that really frames the experience of Outlaw Country well.
What surprised you most about being on these two sides of the law?
What’s really interesting is that there is a lot of commonality. Even though these two crews’ moral compass looks to be opposite, there are common things. There’s a whole lot of loyalty on both side and a ton of respect. The group of guys who all grew up with each other in the Alliance have become a family, and the Task Force have become a family, bonded by the pursuit of justice and doing the right thing. Even though they are totally opposite camps there is so much common ground on both sides. To humanize the “bad boys” puts the viewers in their shoes and makes them think, “Maybe if I were in that situation I might handle it the same way.” or at least you can see why they handled it the same way.
So if you like good character driven stories, that are badass and with a ton of actions but with also suspense then Outlaw Country is your show.
Outlaw Country premieres on WGN America February 24th at 10:00 PM ET.
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