With nine shows, Taylor Sheridan can’t be as hands-on as he once was. So, after writing the “Tulsa King” pilot in three days, and getting Sylvester Stallone to quickly sign on to the project, Sheridan handed over the reins to “Boardwalk Empire” and “Sopranos” vet, Terence Winter.
Now it’s Winter’s show. After reading the “brilliant” first script, he called Sheridan to talk over some changes — moving the premise from Kansas City to Tulsa, for starters — and went from there.
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“Taylor was like, ‘This is your baby. I have visitation rights.’ He stayed true to his word,” Winter says. “I went off to the show and I met him one time after that, in person right before we started shooting.”
On paper, the Paramount+ show is about former Mafia capo Dwight Manfredi, who’s sent to live in Tulsa, Okla., after serving 25 years in prison. But it’s more than that.
In Stallone’s first-ever TV series, he plays a character very close to himself, who feels disconnected from the modern world.
“I think this is a version of Sly that very few people have ever gotten to see before,” says Winter. “This is closer to the real person than anything he’s ever done — aside from the Mafia stuff, of course. He’s very funny, very smart and incredibly well read. He’s sarcastic, self-deprecating and soulful. So much of Dwight is actually taken from the real guy. I haven’t seen him flex those muscles on-screen before.”
Stallone agrees about the similarities — “the only difference is the name,” he says. “If I were a gangster, I probably wouldn’t be a very successful one, because that’s the way I would be — humorous and irregular, you might say.”
He’s also ready to show the world he’s not what everyone expects: “People think after ‘Rocky’ that I’m a little impaired. Or after ‘Rambo,’ they think you’re monosyllabic, dangerous and antisocial. What you see as Dwight is what you see right now. This is who I am.”
While viewers may be surprised, Stallone himself was also shocked by how time-consuming filming TV is.
“It’s beyond tough. I can’t believe some people have done this for four, five or six seasons. It’s brutal, compared to filmmaking. I’ll never say, ‘This is a hard shoot’ again on a feature. It’s a vacation compared to this! It really is.”
As for whether there will be more “Tulsa,” he’s unsure.
“Can they shoot it in my home in Palm Beach? That’d be nice,” he says with a laugh. “I talked to my wife about it. If she comes along with the kids to the set to visit, perhaps. But it’s a big decision, it really is.”
New episodes of “Tulsa King” drop every Sunday on Paramount+.
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