USA Goes Darker, Grittier, Edgier with New Drama Graceland

TV Guide

Dark. Gritty. Edgy.

Those are works not usually associated with the network behind Royal Pains and White Collar. However, USA Network's "blue-sky" programming model is about to get a little overcast - in a good way - with the premiere of new drama Graceland, from White Collar creator and showrunner Jeff Eastin.

"It's darker, it's grittier it's edgier. You get to see a more intensive side of us," star Vanessa Ferlito told reporters at USA's winter TV preview Monday. "You really don't get to see that in most procedurals."

Winter TV Preview: Scoop on the must-see new shows

Graceland, premiering this summer, follows six undercover DEA, FBI and Customs agents who are assigned to live together in a repossessed Southern California beachfront mansion. Aside from trading the streets of New York City in for the beaches of SoCal, fans of White Collar will be surprised about the major difference in tone.

"It's a dark show but I consider it more of a reality-based show," Eastin said of the project, which he originally penned before he started work on White Collar. "It turns out there's a lot of darkness when it comes to being an undercover officer."

After first launching White Collar - now in its fourth season - back in October 2009 on USA, Eastin said he "definitely" felt the pressure to create another success for the network. However, he learned an important lesson on the first go-around that he applied to Graceland. "I think the one thing I learned from White Collar is really to cast it right and once you get a case right to just really try to maintain the world that you've created in the pilot," Eastin said. "[Casting] is 90 percent of the battle."

Exclusive: Get a first look at USA's new series Graceland

Eastin appears to have won that battle, casting Gossip Girl's Aaron Tveit and Rescue Me's Daniel Sunjata in the lead roles. Sunjata in particular plays a dark and mysterious character - senior FBI agent Paul Briggs - and said it was the complexity of Briggs that drew him to the series. "He doesn't just lay all the cards out on the table," he said. "His dimensions are revealed over time, but he's certainly not what he seems at the beginning."

However, Eastin is quick to point out there are some lighter moments on Graceland as well. "What I'm really proud of is that it's not just a dark show," he says. "It's actually a pretty funny show. ... The jokes come out of the reality of what it is."

Graceland premieres this summer on USA.

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