David Mills (TV writer)

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David Mills
David Mills.jpg
Born David Eugene Mills
(1961-11-20)November 20, 1961
Washington, DC, U.S.
Died March 30, 2010(2010-03-30) (aged 48)
New Orleans, Louisiana, U.S.
Occupation Journalist, television writer
Nationality American
Period 1993–2010
Notable work(s) The Corner, Kingpin

David Eugene Mills[1] (November 20, 1961[2] – March 30, 2010) was an American journalist, writer and producer of television programs.[2][3] He was an executive producer and writer of the HBO miniseries The Corner, for which he won two Emmy Awards, and the creator, executive producer, and writer of the NBC miniseries Kingpin.

Early life[edit]

Mills was born in Washington, D.C. His family moved to Lanham, Maryland after their home was destroyed by a fire.[1] In 1979, Mills graduated from DuVal Senior High School in Lanham.

Journalism[edit]

Mills attended the University of Maryland, where he was on the staff of The Diamondback, the independent student newspaper. He met frequent collaborator David Simon while working on The Diamondback.[1] While he was a student, Mills published This Magazine, a tabloid that failed after three editions. Later, he and a group of his friends published Uncut Funk, a zine that focused on the music of George Clinton and Parliament-Funkadelic.

After graduating, Mills became a features writer. He worked for The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Times, and The Washington Post. His coverage of race and popular culture at The Washington Post was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in 1992.[4][5] Among the many articles he wrote, Mills produced a number of controversial celebrity interviews.

Professor Griff[edit]

In 1989, Mills interviewed Professor Griff, a member of the hip hop group Public Enemy, for the Washington Times. During the interview, Griff made a number of antisemitic remarks, leading to criticism of the group.[6][7]

Sister Souljah[edit]

Mills spoke with activist and rapper Sister Souljah in 1992 for the Washington Post. During the interview, the two spoke about the race riots that had taken place weeks earlier in Los Angeles after a predominately-white jury acquitted four police officers who had been videotaped while beating a black motorist named Rodney King following a high-speed car chase.

The most controversial portion of the interview came when Mills asked Souljah whether violence was a rational response to outrage. Imagining the thoughts of a participant in the riots, Souljah said that it was:[8]

Mills: But even the people themselves who were perpetrating that violence, did they think it was wise? Was that wise, reasoned action?

Souljah: Yeah, it was wise. I mean, if black people kill black people every day, why not have a week and kill white people? You understand what I'm saying? In other words, white people, this government, and that mayor were well aware of the fact that black people were dying every day in Los Angeles under gang violence. So if you're a gang member and you would normally be killing somebody, why not kill a white person? Do you think that somebody thinks that white people are better, or above and beyond dying, when they would kill their own kind?[9]

Within weeks the interview achieved national fame — one sentence of it, that is. Democratic presidential candidate Bill Clinton criticized Jesse Jackson and the Rainbow Coalition for inviting Souljah to speak at its convention. Quoting Souljah as saying "If black people kill black people every day, why not have a week and kill white people?" Clinton said that "if you took the words 'white' and 'black' and reversed them, you might think David Duke was giving that speech".[10][11]

Television[edit]

Homicide: Life on the Street[edit]

In 1993 Mills wrote the script for an episode of Homicide: Life on the Street. The program was based on a book, Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets, by David Simon, a college friend of Mills.[12] Simon was also a writer and producer of the show.[12]

The program, called "Bop Gun", which featured Robin Williams as a guest star, aired in January 1994 as the second season premiere.[13] Mills named the episode after a Parliament song, "Bop Gun (Endangered Species)"; one of the criminals featured in the episode claimed he shot someone in anger over the destruction of a rare record by Eddie Hazel, a member of Funkadelic. This was the first of many P-Funk references that Mills would incorporate into his screenplays.[3][14] Mills and Simon won the WGA Award for Best Writing in a Drama for "Bop Gun".[15] Mills said of the episode, "That script inspired me to quit journalism. It was a golden opportunity, even though I didn't know what I was doing. I developed bad habits as a newspaper feature writer. I would always stretch a project to fill the available time."[16] Mills wrote two more episodes for Homicide, one each in 1995 and 1998.

NYPD Blue[edit]

Main article: NYPD Blue

At a professional writer’s seminar during 1994, David Milch, the co-creator of NYPD Blue, tried to explain why there were so few African-American screenwriters. He said that "in the area of drama, it was difficult for black American writers to write successfully for a mass audience". In response to Milch's comments, which were made public by The Washington Post, Mills wrote a letter in which he challenged Milch's assumptions concerning Black writers. As a result, Milch hired Mills as a writer for NYPD Blue.[17]

Mills wrote nine episodes of NYPD Blue between 1995 and 1997. In one of those episodes, "Closing Time", recovering alcoholic Andy Sipowicz begins drinking again and is beaten by a group of young men who steal his gun. Before the men confront Sipowicz, they are arguing about whether Bootsy Collins or Larry Graham is the better bass player. This is another one of Mills's P-Funk references in his work.

Looking back on his experience working on NYPD Blue, Mills would later write, "Milch didn't hire me just to get Jesse Jackson off ABC's back. He gave me a shot, I rose to the occasion, and he became a true mentor to me."[18]

ER[edit]

Main article: ER (TV series)

Between 1997 and 1999, Mills wrote four episodes of ER. He is credited with creating the character of "Rocket" Romano.[19]

The Corner[edit]

Main article: The Corner

During 1999, David Simon was asked to adapt his book The Corner: A Year in the Life of an Inner-City Neighborhood into a miniseries for HBO. Simon invited Mills to co-write and co-produce the six-part miniseries, also called The Corner.[20] The critically acclaimed program, which ran during 2000, was awarded three Primetime Emmys.[20] Simon and Mills won the award for Outstanding Writing for a Miniseries, Movie, or Dramatic Special, they shared the award for Outstanding Mini-Series with two co-producers, and director Charles S. Dutton won the Emmy for Outstanding Directing for a Miniseries, Movie or Dramatic Special.[20]

In another P-Funk reference, Mills named his production company Knee Deep Productions, a reference to Funkadelic's 1979 hit "(Not Just) Knee Deep".

Kingpin[edit]

Main article: Kingpin (TV series)

Mills's next project was the development of an original miniseries for NBC. Kingpin, a six-part series that aired during 2003, was a drama about the head of a Mexican drug cartel and his business and family lives. It was expected to be network television's answer to HBO's hit series The Sopranos, but lackluster ratings forced NBC to cancel plans to extend the miniseries into a full-length series.

The Wire[edit]

Main article: The Wire (TV series)

In 2006 Mills was reunited with Simon as part of the writing staff for The Wire.[21] He joined the crew of the fourth season as a writer. He wrote the teleplay for "Soft Eyes" from a story he co-wrote with producer Ed Burns.[22][23] Mills and the writing staff won the Writers Guild of America (WGA) Award for Best Dramatic Series at the February 2008 ceremony and the 2007 Edgar Award for Best Television Feature/Mini-Series Teleplay, both for their work on the fourth season.[24][25]

He returned as a writer for the fifth season in 2008. Mills wrote the episode "React Quotes".[26][27] Mills and the writing staff were nominated for the WGA Award for Best Dramatic Series at the February 2009 ceremony for their work on the fifth season but Mad Men won the award.[28]

Conviction[edit]

During 2006 Mills wrote one script for the short-lived Conviction.

Treme[edit]

Main article: Treme (TV series)

Mills collaborated with Simon on Treme, a series that premiered on HBO in April 2010. The final episode of the show's first season was dedicated to him.[29]

Book[edit]

In 1998, Mills and some of his fellow Uncut Funk authors edited various interviews they had conducted with P-Funk members over the years. The resulting book, George Clinton and P-Funk: An Oral History, was published as part of the For the Record series, edited by music critic Dave Marsh.

Death[edit]

David Mills died of a brain aneurysm on March 30, 2010, at the Tulane Medical Center in New Orleans, Louisiana, twelve days before the premiere of Treme.[30][31]

Awards[edit]

Year Award Category Result Work Notes
2009 Writers Guild of America (WGA) Award Outstanding Dramatic Series Nominated[28] The Wire season 5 Shared with Ed Burns, Chris Collins, Dennis Lehane, David Mills, George Pelecanos, Richard Price, David Simon and William F. Zorzi
2008 Won[25] The Wire season 4 Shared with Ed Burns, Chris Collins, Kia Corthron, Dennis Lehane, Eric Overmyer, George Pelecanos, Richard Price, David Simon and William F. Zorzi
2007 Edgar Award Best Television Feature/Mini-Series Teleplay Won[24] Shared with Ed Burns, Kia Corthron, Dennis Lehane, Eric Overmyer, George Pelecanos, Richard Price, David Simon and William F. Zorzi
2000 Emmy Award Outstanding Miniseries Won The Corner Shared with Robert F. Colesberry, Nina K. Noble and David Simon
Outstanding Writing for a Miniseries or a Movie Won Shared with David Simon
1999 WGA Award Episodic Drama Nominated Homicide: Life on the Street episode "Finnegan's Wake" Shared with David Simon and James Yoshimura
1998 Emmy Award Outstanding Drama Series Nominated ER Shared with Penny Adams, Neal Baer, Christopher Chulack, Michael Crichton, Carol Flint, Lance Gentile, Walon Green, Jack Orman, Tom Park, Wendy Spence, John Wells and Lydia Woodward
1997 Emmy Award Outstanding Drama Series Nominated NYPD Blue Shared with Steven Bochco, Bill Clark, Steven DePaul, Robert J. Doherty, David Milch, Theresa Rebeck, Michael M. Robin, Mark Tinker and Michael W. Watkins
Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series Nominated NYPD Blue episode "Taillight's Last Gleaming"
Humanitas Prize 60 minute category Won NYPD Blue
1996 Emmy Award Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series Nominated NYPD Blue episode "The Backboard Jungle" Shared with William L. Morris
1995 WGA Award Episodic Drama Won Homicide: Life on the Street episode "Bop Gun" Shared with David Simon
1992 Pulitzer Prize Nominated articles for The Washington Post

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Weber, Bruce (March 31, 2010). "David Mills, Television Writer and Producer, Dies at 48". The New York Times. Retrieved April 1, 2010. 
  2. ^ a b Villarreal, Yvonne (April 1, 2010). "David Mills Dies at 48; Emmy-Winning Writer for 'The Wire,' 'NYPD Blue'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved April 1, 2010. 
  3. ^ a b Trescott, Jacqueline; De Moraes, Lisa (April 1, 2010). "David Mills, 48, Journalist, Emmy-Winning TV Writer". The Washington Post. Retrieved April 1, 2010. 
  4. ^ Owen, Paul (April 6, 2010). "David Mills obituary: Writer on hit American TV series The Wire, ER and NYPD Blue". The Guardian (London). Retrieved May 15, 2010. 
  5. ^ Slivnick, Ben (April 5, 2010). "Diamondback Years Shaped Mills". The Diamondback. Retrieved May 15, 2010. 
  6. ^ Robert Christgau (1989). "The Shit Storm". LA Weekly. Retrieved July 7, 2007. 
  7. ^ Robert Christgau (January 16, 1990). "Jesus, Jews, and the Jackass Theory". The Village Voice. Retrieved July 7, 2007. 
  8. ^ David Mills (May 13, 1992). "Sister Souljah's Call to Arms". The Washington Post. pp. B1. 
  9. ^ David Mills (June 16, 1992). "In Her Own Disputed Words". The Washington Post. pp. A7. Archived from the original on June 19, 1992. Retrieved July 8, 2007. 
  10. ^ Gwen Ifill (June 14, 1992). "Clinton at Jackson Meeting: Warmth, and Some Friction". The New York Times. Retrieved July 8, 2007. 
  11. ^ Terry Eastland (September 2, 1996). "Redeeming the Race Card". National Review. Retrieved July 8, 2007. 
  12. ^ a b Hal Hinson (June 2, 2002). "TELEVISION/RADIO; Revisiting Baltimore's Embattled Streets". The New York Times. Retrieved October 11, 2007. 
  13. ^ Stephen Gyllenhaal (January 6, 1994). "Bop Gun". Homicide: Life on the Street. Season 2. Episode 01. NBC.
  14. ^ Tucker, Ken (December 24, 1993). "TV Review: Homicide: Life on the Street". Entertainment Weekly. 
  15. ^ Cynthia Rose. "The originator of TV's 'Homicide' remains close to his police-reporter roots". Seattle Times. Archived from the original on April 28, 1999. Retrieved September 28, 2006. 
  16. ^ Zaslow, Jeffrey (July 2, 1996). "Future brother-in-law's pantyhose create a snag; A black voice in "Blue"; "NYPD" writer finds depth in Fancy, Sipowicz". Chicago Sun-Times (Chicago, Illinois). p. 34. 
  17. ^ Joyce Millman (September 22, 1997). "Racist — or realistic?". Salon.com. Retrieved July 7, 2007. 
  18. ^ David Mills (June 7, 2007). "Sing Along with Milch". Undercover Black Man. Retrieved July 7, 2007. 
  19. ^ Sepinwall, Alan (March 31, 2010). "David Mills, Emmy-Winning TV Writer, Dies". The Star-Ledger. Retrieved April 1, 2010. 
  20. ^ a b c Mary Alice Blackwell. "Fun comes down to 'The Wire'". Daily Progress. Retrieved September 27, 2006. 
  21. ^ "The Wire season 4 crew". HBO. 2007. Retrieved October 14, 2007. 
  22. ^ David Mills, Ed Burns (September 17, 2004). "Soft Eyes". The Wire. Season 4. Episode 02. HBO.
  23. ^ "Episode guide - episode 39 Soft Eyes". HBO. 2006. Retrieved August 9, 2006. 
  24. ^ a b "Curtains Receives Edgar Award Nomination". Theatre Mania. 
  25. ^ a b "2008 Writers Guild Awards Television & Radio Nominees Announced". WGA. 2007. Retrieved 2007-12-13. 
  26. ^ Agnieszka Holland (2008-02-03). "React Quotes". The Wire. Season 5. Episode 5. HBO.
  27. ^ "The Wire episode guide - episode 55 React Quotes". HBO. 2008. Retrieved 2008-02-05. 
  28. ^ a b "2009 Writers Guild Awards Television, Radio, News, Promotional Writing, and Graphic Animation Nominees Announced". WGA. 2008. Retrieved December 12, 2008. 
  29. ^ http://www.nola.com/treme-hbo/index.ssf/2010/06/treme_explained_ill_fly_away.html
  30. ^ "Veteran 'Wire,' 'ER' screenwriter David Mills dies". Associated Press. March 31, 2010. Retrieved March 31, 2010. [dead link]
  31. ^ Walker, Dave (March 31, 2010). "'Treme' writer David Mills dies of brain aneurysm". New Orleans Times-Picayune. Retrieved March 31, 2010. 

External links[edit]

Bibliography[edit]

  • David Mills, Larry Alexander, Thomas Stanley, and Aris Thomas, George Clinton and P-Funk: An Oral History (New York: Avon Books, 1998). ISBN 0-380-79378-4