The new series Graceland has nothing directly to do with Elvis Presley.
Rather, it focuses on a California beachfront house where undercover agents from three organizations – the FBI, the DEA and U.S. Customs – share accommodations.
The place got its nickname because it was seized from a drug lord who was a hardcore Elvis fan. Graceland, of course, is what Elvis called his mansion in Memphis, Tenn.
“I had gone through several titles – the working title was Safe House, which I thought was a little dull,” said Jeff Eastin, the creator and executive producer of Graceland.
“For a while there was going to be a big velvet Elvis hanging in the foyer, but we decided that wasn’t a good idea.”
Debuting across Canada Thursday, June 6 on Bravo, Graceland is inspired by a true story, or at the very least, a true living arrangement. It stars Aaron Tveit (pictured above left) as a brilliant but typically green FBI rookie and Daniel Sunjata (pictured above right) as a brilliant but typically mysterious FBI veteran.
Having just graduated at the top of his class, Mike Warren (Tveit) anticipates a traditional desk job in Washington, D.C. But he suddenly and unexpectedly is shipped to Graceland in California.
Immediately thrown into his first undercover assignment, Mike relies heavily on the guidance of would-be mentor Paul Briggs (Sunjata).
Mike’s posting at Graceland seems merely to be a temporary thing, as another FBI agent who had been living there was injured in the line of duty. Things might not be as random as they look, though.
“I don’t think this is typical television story-telling,” Tveit said. “As the arc of the whole season develops, a lot of things that you don’t necessarily expect to happen are going to happen.”
Tveit is known not only for his role as Tripp van der Bilt in Gossip Girl but also for the 2012 film version of Les Miserables, in which he played Enjolras.
“It has been a crazy year, actually,” Tveit said. “I got this job (Graceland) and I got ‘Les Miz’ two days apart last year. It has been really special to have both of them at the same time.”
Graceland also features Vanessa Ferlito as Catherine (Charlie) Lopez, Brandon Jay McLaren as Dale Jakes, Manny Montana as Joe (Johnny) Tuturro and Serinda Swan as Paige Arkin.
The five people living in the house when Mike arrives all are a little too cool for school, and at moments Mike is a tad too nerdy to be completely believable as someone who has gone through FBI training.
However, the pilot episode of Graceland gets better as it goes along, and once it moves from the personal to the professional, there are some intriguing “what would you do?” moments.
“Obviously if you get a bunch of ‘Type A’ personalities in the same room, especially living in the same house, that’s going to create conflict, and conflict is excellent television,” said Sunjata, who is best known for his role as Franco Rivera in Rescue Me.
“(Graceland) doesn’t just lay all the cards on the table immediately. It’s a house full of people who lie for a living, and whose very lives depend on their ability to keep their lies straight.”
In other words, think of Graceland as a show about people with suspicious minds.
Maybe it’s not too late to dig out the velvet Elvis.