Following in the footsteps of recent TV converts Ewan McGregor (Fargo) and Zach Galifianakis (Baskets), James Franco plays two roles—siblings, to be exact—in the upcoming HBO drama The Deuce. The show marks his first regular role on a continuing series since his breakout, Freaks and Geeks, and his return to the small screen couldn’t come with a better pedigree: The Deuce is the newest project from HBO powerhouse David Simon, of The Wire fame, co-created by novelist George Pelecanos and co-starring Oscar nominee Maggie Gyllenhaal. Oh, and the subject matter is pretty rich, too: It’s a period piece set in the porn industry of ’70s New York, with Franco playing Vincent and Frankie Martino—twins who operated a front for mob control of the volatile sex industry—and Gyllenhaal starring as a Times Square sex worker drawn into the business side of porn.
This marks Simon’s second straight period drama after his acclaimed miniseries Show Me a Hero and in his focus on a booming underground economy and inequality, appears to be a return to familiar themes. HBO’s first teaser for The Deuce, energetically but also tellingly scored to Curtis Mayfield’s “Move on Up,” highlights Franco, Gyllenhaal, and an excellent supporting cast while capturing the seedy Times Square vibe of decades past. A-listers headline the new production, but the ensemble is rounded out by Simon favorites—among them, Wire standouts Lawrence Gilliard Jr. (D’Angelo Barksdale), Gbenga Akinnagbe (Chris Partlow), and Chris Bauer (Frank Sobotka), and Show Me a Hero scene-stealer Dominique Fishback.
HBO will launch the eight-episode season of The Deuce on Sept. 10, in the prime fall timeslot that previously marked the debuts of such network hits as True Blood, Boardwalk Empire, and last year’s Westworld. Whether Simon’s latest can live up to his very impressive TV résumé remains to be seen, but there’s an awful lot to be excited by here.
The Deuce will world premiere this Friday at the inaugural Split Screens TV Festival in New York, with Gyllenhaal, Pelecanos, and Emmy-nominated director Michelle MacLaren (Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones) in attendance. Tickets can be purchased here.