Neighborhood Intel

"666 Park Avenue" producer speaks: Diabolical building owner is "like Trump, but smart"

By Kelly Kreth  |
September 20, 2012 - 8:53AM

Sunday, Sept. 30th at 10 p.m. marks the premiere of supernatural real-estate-horror-drama 666 Park Avenue, a new ABC series featuring former "Lost" co-star Terry "Locke" O'Quinn.

In "666," O'Quinn plays Gavin Doran, the manipulative, diabolical owner of an iconic Upper East Side prewar rental building, The Drake. Doran -- with his wife Olivia (Vanessa Williams) by his side -- lures in residents and then coerces and seduces them into doing his dirty work. 

Jane, a naive and new-to-New York property manager who moves to the building with her boyfriend Henry, takes it all in.

Though the series involves demonic landlords, creepy Peeping Toms, scary basements, thieving tenants, and elevators with minds of their own--elements of everyday living for many New Yorkers--it is not a reality show.  

After previewing the first episode (favorite quote: "It's New York. Not everyone gets to make it."), we marked our calendar to catch the rest when it airs and asked executive producer David Wilcox ("Fringe," "Life on Mars," "Law & Order") to answer some nagging questions....

Why was The Ansonia building [which is actually on Upper West Side] selected to represent the Drake? 

We looked at a lot of buildings. We were looking for something that could be iconic, that had a romantic quality but was also somewhat menacing. The Dakota is sort of the go-to for menacing NYC buildings because of Rosemary’s Baby, so we wanted to find a property that could lodge itself in peoples' imaginations in the same way.

One of the big things we wanted was to find a lobby that we could shoot in that was long and straight so we could frame our shots to make them have a kind of have a cool supernatural vibe to them.

The Ansonia was the best place we looked at for what we needed and we realized the building itself has an incredibly rich history.

We weren’t sure we’d film the façade and in the screener we listed the Drake as having only 60 units, but we updated that for the actual first episode because we ended up showing the façade and viewers can see how big the property is. We wanted to be sure it was fairly realistic. 

Why is the show set on UES versus any other tony neighborhood like TriBeCa or SoHo? 

The show initially came from a series of books called "666 Park Avenue" by Gabriella Pierce. I was encouraged to come up with my own take on these books in the vein of Rosemary’s Baby.

The books are about witches; that part didn’t necessarily appeal to me, yet we knew we wanted to keep the supernatural aspect to our show.  

Of course the title “666 Park Avenue” is the best metaphor for the show, so it made sense to have the Drake located on Park Avenue on the Upper East Side.    

I was really impressed with the talk of rent-control, retrofitting, and many other true NYC real estate buzzwords. What background research did you do on NYC real estate issues? Did you hire any consultants? 

We didn’t use any consultants, but I always do tons of research.  I did enough so everything we incorporated into the show would sound plausible. I talked to people who live  on the Upper East Side and in fact, one of our executive producers, Les Morganstein, lives there; he was a good resource.

And in terms of construction and things like that, I researched those on my own. In LA, everything has to be retrofitted because of the potential for earthquakes so we included that into the show for the Drake, which is supposed to be a building conceived of being filled with little idiosyncratic elements.

In the second episode, Jane [a bright-eyed Midwestern transplant who, with her architect-live-in-boyfriend Henry, trades in a Queens sublet for a posh two-bedroom in exchange for managing the building] discovers an old airshaft where a huge of roost of starlings reside. She then gets attacked by these birds. 

Ah, an homage to "The Birds."

There are many Hitchcock references throughout the show. In fact, Jane even dresses at Tippi Hedren in our Halloween episode. 

Have you ever lived in NYC?

I never lived in NYC. I lived in Chicago for five years, but I’m originally from Northern Virginia. I now live in Los Angeles.

What is the worst real estate thing that ever happened to you?

In L.A. I’ve encountered my fair share of dodgy apts. And it is different from the rest of the country in ways—apartments here don’t necessarily come with refrigerators. The worst apartment I ever had was in LA and could rival a NYC slum—bugs and drug dealers everywhere.  

Would you sell your soul for the perfect NYC apt (and what is your dream home?)

Sure, I would love a NYC apartment with a view of the park. I’ve seen my fair share of NYC apartments worth coveting in Elle Décor and Architectural Digest. 

In what ways did you adapt the real estate details and plot to appeal to a broader audience than NYC? 

More than anything, a huge component of the show is wish fulfillment—moving to NYC and living in Manhattan and getting to experience everything the city has to offer while not having to live in a shoebox is the ultimate fantasy for many.

Living a life of luxury-- while something that New Yorkers really appreciate--is also something that goes for the rest of the country as well.  I hope it will resonate with all how a young couple is seduced into living at the Drake because they are given an incredible apartment rent – free.

Is there a reason Jane and Henry are not married? 

I thought it is the way people do things now. A couple would live together first, and I think it makes the show feel contemporary.

It also makes it more interesting from a storytelling perspective because it gives us someplace to go. How permanent is this? How committed are they especially when under increased stress?

How would this have worked if set in L.A. or another major cosmopolitan city?

I don’t know if it would… That’s hard to say. The details of how difficult it is to find a great affordable apartment is not necessarily unique to NYC, but I do think it’d resonate that people want a great home and a beautiful house with the person they love.

Everyone understands the value of NYC real estate. The country gets that.

Combine that with the fact that NY has incredible architecture, it is special to set it there. Setting it elsewhere would not have necessarily popped. 

The antagonist and villain of the show, Gavin Doran, is heavily involved in real estate. It is important to note that as an evil character, he is not a hedge fund guy or Wall Streeter, but rather he is actually involved in land deals and construction in Manhattan and Brooklyn.

He epitomizes the ultra-competitive ruthless spirit that underlines the NYC real estate industry.

He reminded me of a sort of a Bizzaro Trump. 

He is like Trump, but smart. 

Hey, I’m quoting you on that! 

Go ahead. He’s on NBC so I don’t care. 

Related post:

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15 things I've learned from  "Million Dollar Listing" so far



Kelly Kreth

Contributing writer

Contributing writer Kelly Kreth has been a freelance journalist, essayist, and columnist for more than two decades. Her real estate articles have appeared in The Real Deal, Luxury Listings, Our Town, and amNewYork. A long-time New York City renter who loves a good deal, Kreth currently lives in a coveted rent-stabilized apartment in a luxury building on the Upper East Side.

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