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A Puff Daddy Cameo; Usher in a Villain Role? Digging into the Music Industry Roots of ABC's New Drama 'Notorious'

ABC/Bob D'Amico
Notorious stars Sepideh Moafi as Megan Byrd, Ryan Guzman as Ryan Mills, Kate Jennings Grant as Louise Herrick, Piper Perabo as Julia George, Daniel Sunjata as Jake Gregorian, Aimeé Teegarden as Ella Benjamin, J. August Richards as Bradley Gregorian and Kevin Zegers as Oscar Keaton. 

"We shall see," says Kenny Meiselas, a veteran music attorney and the show's executive producer.

The new ABC drama Notorious, premiering Thursday, Sept. 22 in the post Grey’s Anatomy slot, is about the intersection of crime and media -- Piper Perabo plays a producer for a popular Larry King-like TV news-program while Daniel Sunjata is a star attorney -- but its roots lie in the music business, as one could sense by the presence of Usher, Bebe Rexha and Maverick’s Tony Sal (manager for The Weeknd) at the show’s Tuesday night launch party in downtown Los Angeles.

Produced by attorney Kenny Meiselas, whose clients at Grubman, Shire & Meiselas include Lady Gaga, Nicki Minaj, The Weeknd and Sean “Puff Daddy” Combs, and The Firm founder Jeff Kwatinetz, longtime representative and producing partner of Ice Cube and an executive at the actor’s Cube Vision, the two shaped the procedural while sitting courtside at Knicks games. “As someone who’s was in the middle of entertainment as a deal-maker, I’ve always had ideas,” Meiselas explains. “And there was one that I had developed with Wendy Walker, who was previously the executive producer at Larry King Live, that Jeff loved. We discussed concepts with his team and developed it -- putting the treatment together and pitching it to the networks.”

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With the involvement of veteran criminal defense attorney Mark Geragos, who has represented such high-profile clients as Scott Peterson and Michael Jackson, a plot was born that was loosely based on Geragos' own history with Walker -- what Meiselas describes as a “love-hate symbiotic relationship they each used for ratings and jury influence.” The pitch, he adds, is simple: “There have been a lot of law shows and a lot of news shows but never the two combined together.” Elaborating on how the twain shall meet on Thursday nights, Meiselas spoke with Billboard on premiere eve.

Besides a love of basketball, what drew you to Jeff Kwatinetz?

How Jeff had completely transformed from being the undisputed No. 1 music manager at The Firm’s height [the company's roster included Korn, Backstreet Boys, Kelly Clarkson and many more top-selling acts of the late 1990s and early 2000s], then coming back reincarnated as a guy who was doing incredible things in the film world and television.

You’ve credited the popularity of New York City-based Law & Order for paving the way for crime dramas, how did the decision for Notorious to be located in Los Angeles come about?

Since it is a loosely-based show, Larry King moved from Washington, D.C. to L.A. where it was based for many years, and Mark [Geragos] lives on the west coast. We always viewed it as “L.A.” It’s the components of media and law where they use and misuse each other. It’s what we are seeing in the papers every day -- everything from fraternity hazing to robbing of celebrity houses like “the Bling Ring.”

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Katie Couric cameoed in the pilot and Usher was present for the show’s premiere party, can we expect some of your clients to show up in future episodes?

Katie is a friend of Wendy’s. Puffy does have a cameo in episode two. Usher, who has really honed his acting chops with the movie Hands Of Stone where he plays Sugar Ray Leonard, he said to me, “I want to do it, but not a cameo. I want to play a villain. So if you can find a good role for me as a villain, I’m in.” We shall see...

What have you learned about the TV business -- and how it compares to the music industry -- through this experience?

The process takes longer -- everything from production to development to making it on the air. There are truly are so many hurdles along the way, it’s amazing shows can get on a network. It definitely is not replacing my day job. I love my artists, I love deal-making. It’s just a fun thing to do.

What’s the last show you binge watched?

I’m currently binging Mr. Robot. Piper said it’s great. I got through season one on my last trip [to L.A.] and am now on season two.