Anyone who lived through the disco and punk eras of 1970s and ’80s New York no doubt remembers the time well — or at least as well as their compromised brain cells will allow.
A new series premiering this week on HBO will serve to bring back some of those memories — for better and for worse.
“Vinyl,” a period drama from executive producers Martin Scorsese (“GoodFellas”), Terence Winter (“The Sopranos”) and Mick Jagger that debuts Sunday (Feb. 14), tells the story of the sex- and drug-addled New York music scene through the travails of Richie Finestra (Bobby Cannavale, “Boardwalk Empire”), the founder and president of American Century Records, who is trying to save his struggling company without destroying himself or those around him.
That includes his spouse, Devon (Olivia Wilde, “House”), a bored suburban housewife and fellow addict in recovery who longs for her days as one of Andy Warhol’s Factory Girls; Zak Yankovich (a bearded Ray Romano, “Everybody Loves Raymond”), Richie’s business partner and an expert schmoozer; Lester Grimes (Ato Essandoh, “Django Unchained”), Richie’s first client with whom he has a long history; Julius “Julie” Silver (Max Casella, “Doogie Howser, M.D.”), the head of artists and repertoire at American who struggles to stay hip in a young man’s game; and Jamie Vine (Juno Temple, “The Dark Knight Rises”), an ambitious A&R assistant at American with an eye for talent.
Fans of ’70s music will be in their glory, as tunes by the New York Dolls, Black Sabbath and Edgar Winter, to name a few, are sprinkled liberally throughout the 10 episodes. But at the heart of the story is the relationship of Richie and Devon. Though a devoted family man, hard worker and lover of music and the industry, Richie is an addict with an affinity for booze and cocaine who is trying hard to stay sober. But an event in the pilot changes all that.
“[Richie and Devon] are both on the wagon when we meet them at the beginning and they’re both clean and he obviously falls off the wagon and she’s not happy about that,” Cannavale tells Zap2it. “… But Richie and Devon are the closest thing that you can call today to being soul mates. Richie meets her and she’s one of Andy Warhol’s Factory Girls and he meets her at the Factory. She’s got a real Bohemian bent about her but she’s very, very smart and cultured and is the kind of person who just has a natural coolness about her. And she’s his partner.
“I think when we find her in the beginning, they’ve sort of worked out this happy life for themselves and the sobriety thing is going well …,” he continues. “They’ve got two kids, they’ve got the house, and that relationship’s going to be challenged … . But hopefully we set up from the beginning that these are two people who were meant to be together.”
Also pulling at the seams of their relationship are Devon’s frustrations. With the challenges of early motherhood having subsided, the former actress is left to wonder what might have been had she not given up her life to be part of Richie’s.
“She’s frustrated,” Wilde says. “There’s an anxiety to her. There is a devotion to this family but a sense that she’s aching for her past, and it’s hard to acknowledge that that world, the Warhol world, is still existing. She’s just opted out of it. It would almost be easier if all those people were dead and gone because then Devon wouldn’t be lured back in.”
“And I think that was the experience of many women at the time,” she continues. “I think women who were part of the Cultural Revolution of the ’60s, settled down in the early ’70s and then found themselves really wanting for their identities, a lot of women ended up leaving their families, falling back into addiction. It was fascinating to do the research for Devon because I found out how common her situation really was.”