BBC America's 'Copper' Tackles Racial Tensions
A murder leads to panic on the Civil War-era drama
The idea of a police procedural set in the Civil War era sounds farfetched and odd until you watch BBC America's new drama, "Copper."
Smart, captivating and edifying, the Sunday night offering is BBC America's first original series and is already pulling in just under 2 million viewers after two weeks on the air. In case you haven't seen it, the drama follows New York police officer Kevin Corcoran (Tom Weston-Jones), an Irish American who returns from the Civil War to find his wife missing and his daughter dead.
Corcoran forms an unlikely alliance with a free black man/doctor named Matthew Freeman (Ato Essandoh), and Robert Morehouse (Kyle Schmid), the wayward son of a rich industrialist, as he sets out to find his wife and avenge his daughter's death.
"Copper," which comes from Oscar-winning producer Barry Levinson and Emmy-winner Tom Fontana, will test Corcoran's bond with Freeman and Morehouse every week and this Sunday's installment is no exception.
This time around, racial tensions in the city's Five Points come to a head when the body of an Irishman is found, and it appears that he has been hanged. Although the evidence points to a black pastor as the murderer, Corcoran has doubts and is forced to question the evidence with the help of Dr. Freeman.
"The first thing I thought when I saw the role, I said, 'There were no black doctors back then. That's impossible,'" said Essandoh, 40, whose credits include "Blue Bloods" and "Blood Diamond." "But there were and I didn't know. That's the unfortunate part of our history."
Once he got the part, Essandoh researched New York in the 1860s and learned that there were six black doctors living and practicing in the city at that time. He later drew from the real life of James McCune Smith to help solidify his portrayal.
"His story is interesting because he couldn't get into any medical schools because he was black so he found a sponsor who took him to Scotland to get his medical degree," Essandoh said. "This is what this guy had to do and he came back and started practicing. When I saw that story, it anchored me in this role because I knew what he had to go through to even be able to call himself a doctor."
"Copper" airs Sundays at 10 p.m. ET/PT on BBC America.