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A Quick Chat with Tom Fontana: I’d Be Surprised if This 'Borgia'
December 8, 2012  | By David Bianculli  | 12 comments

After a New York screening Wednesday previewing the upcoming Season 2 of Borgia: Faith and Fear, available in the U.S. on Netflix, series creator Tom Fontana and I had a quick chat… about Borgia, about Netflix, about the status of the DVD release of St. Elsewhere, and about slipping a very sneaky in-joke Extra into an episode of his BBC America series Copper.

On how much fun he’s having writing and shooting Borgia, which for Season 2 [soon to premiere on Netflix] moved to Italy for its location shooting:

"It’s the most fun of my life. And you know how much fun I’ve had. There is just something so incredibly insane about the fact that, at 61 years old — a time when most guys my age are out of the business, and not by choice — I’m getting to do a show that I love, with actors I adore, and shooting in Italy! Okay?"

On one Season 2 premiere episode location in particular, a stunningly evocative outdoor arena, in which one character practices for a bullfight:

"It’s this ancient Roman amphitheater. They showed me the location photo, and I went, all right! Originally, I wanted to do an actual bullfight, and they said, 'Too expensive.' So I went, all right, I can do it without doing it. But I loved that location so much, I was like, 'I can’t not shoot something here.'"

On Borgia, an international co-production, being distributed in the U.S. on Netflix:

"When it first started streaming on Netflix, they did no publicity for it whatsoever. And it was very quickly in the Top 25. What happened was, it became one of those things that everyone wants, which is have people go, 'Oh, have you seen that fucking show?' And so people started watching it, and it caught on. And people were watching, like, six episodes in a row — and to me, that’s insane, but kind of great."

On the continued, frustrating unavailability of all but Season 1 of St. Elsewhere on DVD:

"You’ve got to talk to them… I think it’s 20th Century Fox. I spoke to the guy, and he basically said to me, 'Well, it didn’t sell well.' But they’re doing the same thing to Hill Street, to Lou Grant — where’s Lou Grant?"

On the hidden Extra inside the election episode of BBC America’s Copper, another current series by Fontana:

[In the episode, opportunistic detective Andrew O’Brien, played by Dylan Taylor, is working an election scam out of Eve’s Paradise, a bar. He has fake beards and wigs on hand, and offers men free liquor in exchange for voting for the candidate backed by Boss Tweed and the Tammany Hall Democratic machine, adopting a new look, and new name, for each vote cast for George B. McClellan, the 1864 presidential opponent to Republican incumbent Abraham Lincoln.

When the first man approaches the bar, O’Brien slaps a wig on him, points to the shots of whiskey laid out on the bar, and tells him, “There you are. Take your free drink, courtesy of Mr. Tweed. This time your name is 'Jack Morrison.' Then comes another man, who is fitted with a similarly sorry disguise, and told his new name for this round of voting: "Tim Bayliss."

Jack Morrison, of course, was the name of the doctor played by David Morse on St. Elsewhere (above, right), and Tim Bayliss was the detective played by Kyle Secor on Homicide: Life on the Street — both of which were shows on which Fontana was a writer-producer.]

"That was an old habit,” Fontana said, acknowledging his long-standing penchant for slipping silly in-jokes into even his most dramatic series.

"But I needed Irish names — and we were having such trouble clearing names. It was really ridiculous. The lawyers were going, like, 'No, you can’t use Patrick Kelly, because there’s a Patrick Kelly living on 42nd Street. And I’m like — there are eight million Patrick Kellys, and these guys lived in 1864. So he’s going to sue us?…

"So I needed two names very quickly, and I went, 'You know what? I know those clear.'"

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Feb 20, 2023   |  Reply
Hi, I just wanted to let everyone know that Borgia: Faith & Fear is starting September 20th 2013, but I don't know when Netflix will have it unfortunately :( I guess the best bet is to just call & ask Netflix when they're going to have it available.
Jul 31, 2013   |  Reply
LOVE LOVE LOVE this show!!!! I have been watching The Borgias on showtime and thought it was good but Borgia Faith and Fear is so much better.. finished watching both seasons.. Cannot wait for season 3
May 28, 2013   |  Reply
Karen G
It's so funny bc I came across Borgia Faith and Fear on Netflix completely by chance. I had never heard of it and still know little of the backstory regarding the show as I'm not going to social media sites in fear of spoilers. Anyway, for some strange reason I felt compelled to give Borgia a chance and was hooked instantly. And yes, I watch 5 or 6 episodes at a time lol! I'm finishing Season 2 today. Only 4 episodes to go :-P Any word on a 3rd season? I do wish they would match the name of the actors w their pic bc it's hard to know who plays who. The end credits only show co-stars.
May 21, 2013   |  Reply
Great show can not be compared to "the Borgias".
Apr 12, 2013   |  Reply
Just finished season 1 all set for season 2! Hopefully soon.
Apr 6, 2013   |  Reply
When is season 2 coming out?
Feb 8, 2013   |  Reply
rosario sanchez
This version is better than the Showtime version. So hurry up Netflix can't wait for seaon 2.
Jan 11, 2013   |  Reply
Totally agree!
Mar 26, 2013
Completely agree with rsdawson re: the quality of Fontana's BORGIA, the lack of quality of Showtime's THE BORGIAS, and the frustration experienced as no definitive news re: BORGIA season 2 is being made public. I live in NYC; I did not know of any preview of Season 2. Would have been great to attend and write about it for CityArts. Please keep BORGIA fans posted!
Dec 11, 2012   |  Reply
Not only is Tom Fontana brilliant, but he is a real gentleman of the old school. We share the same birthday, so maybe I'm partial. I know anything with his name on it is well worth the viewing time. Love this guy!
Dec 10, 2012   |  Reply
Thanks for finally giving Borgia a little love! I think this is the best show to come along in years frankly. It is utterly wild that everyone knows about the piece of crap Showtime version and yet barely anyone in the mainstream has heard of the exponentially better Euro version. (Of course the hilarity is that the showrunner of the Euro version is American and the showrunner of the American version is European).

One question Bianculli: when does the new season come out!?! Why is there absolutely no press giving viewers and indication of when this bad boy comes out? A little help, please!
Dec 9, 2012   |  Reply
Yes,Fox is to blame.They own all things MTM.I've given up hope for St.Elsewhere,Hill Street Blues or Lou Grant,as well as the rest of Stephen Bochco and David Milch's NYPD Blue.As the physical availability of TV shows wanes,even bargain companies like Mill Creek have stayed away from these.Oh to view Beverly Hill Buntz once more-a truly guilty pleasure.
Dec 8, 2012   |  Reply
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