The one-hour drama series Treme launches its ten-episode first season Sunday, April 11 (10:00-11:20 p.m. ET/PT) on HBO. From David Simon (The Wire, Generation Kill, The Corner) and Eric Overmyer (Homicide: Life on the Street, The Wire), the show follows musicians, chefs, Mardi Gras Indians and ordinary New Orleanians as they try to rebuild their lives, their homes and their unique culture in the aftermath of the 2005 hurricane and levee failure that caused the near-death of an American city.
Treme begins in fall 2005, three months after Hurricane Katrina and the massive engineering failure in which flood control failed throughout New Orleans, flooding 80% of the city, killing hundreds and displacing hundreds of thousands of residents. Fictional events depicted in the series will honor the actual chronology of political, economic and cultural events following the storm.
The drama unfolds with Antoine Batiste, a smooth-talking trombonist who is struggling to make ends meet, earning cash with any gig he can get, including playing in funeral processions for his former neighbors. His ex-wife, LaDonna Batiste-Williams, owns a bar in the Central City neighborhood and splits her time between New Orleans and Baton Rouge, where her children and new husband have relocated. Concerned over the disappearance of her younger brother David, or Daymo, unseen since the storm, LaDonna has turned to a local civil rights attorney, the overburdened and underpaid Toni Bernette, for help. The government's inconsistent and ineffectual response to the devastation has spurred Bernette's husband Creighton, a university professor of English literature and an expert on local history, to become an increasingly outspoken critic of the institutional response.
Tremé resident Davis McAlary, a rebellious radio disc jockey, itinerant musician and general gadfly, is both chronicler of and participant in the city's vibrant and varied musical culture, which simply refuses to be silent, even in the early months after the storm. His occasional partner, popular chef Janette Desautel, hopes to regain momentum for her small, newly re-opened neighborhood restaurant. Elsewhere in the city, displaced Mardi Gras Indian chief Albert Lambreaux returns to find his home destroyed and his uptown tribe, the Guardians of the Flame, scattered, but Lambreaux is determined to rebuild. His son Delmond, an exile in New York playing modern jazz and looking beyond New Orleans for his future, is less sure of his native city, while violinist Annie and her boyfriend Sonny, young street musicians living hand-to-mouth, seem wholly committed to the culture of the Crescent City.
As the story begins, more than half the population of New Orleans is elsewhere and much of the city is wrecked, muddied and caked in mold, while other neighborhoods - in "the sliver by the river," as locals call it - remain viable. But the tourists have yet to return, the money that follows them is scarce, and residents can take solace only in the fact that the city's high levels of crime have migrated to Houston and Baton Rouge. And for those returning, housing is hard to come by, with many people waiting on insurance checks that may never arrive.
The ensemble cast of Treme includes Wendell Pierce ("The Wire," HBO's documentary When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts) as Antoine Batiste; Khandi Alexander (CSI: Miami, HBO's Emmy-winning The Corner) as LaDonna Batiste-Williams; Clarke Peters (Damages, HBO's The Wire and The Corner) as Albert Lambreaux; Rob Brown (Stop Loss, Finding Forrester) as Delmond Lambreaux; Steve Zahn (A Perfect Getaway, Sunshine Cleaning) as Davis McAlary; Kim Dickens (HBO's Deadwood) as Janette Desautel; Melissa Leo (Homicide: Life on the Street; Oscar nominee for Frozen River) as Toni Bernette; John Goodman (The Big Lebowski, O Brother, Where Art Thou?) as Creighton Bernette; Michiel Huisman (The Young Victoria) as Sonny; and classical violinist Lucia Micarelli as Annie.
The series will also feature cameos by notable real-life New Orleanians, as well as the talents of many of its extraordinary musicians and other artists associated with the city's music. Early episodes feature appearances by Allen Toussaint, Dr. John, Elvis Costello, Steve Earle, Kermit Ruffins, Donald Harrison Jr., John Boutte, Galactic, Troy "Trombone Shorty" Andrews, Deacon John Moore, and the Rebirth and Tremé Brass Bands.
The 80-minute pilot episode of Treme was directed by Agnieszka Holland (The Wire, Cold Case). Additional episodes are directed by Simon Cellan Jones (Generation Kill) as well as alumni of The Wire, including Jim McKay (HBO's In Treatment and Big Love), Ernest Dickerson (Burn Notice), Anthony Hemingway (the upcoming film Red Tails), Christine Moore (CSI: NY), Brad Anderson (Fringe, The Machinist) and Dan Attias (HBO's Big Love, House).
In addition to Simon and Overmyer, Treme is written by David Mills (HBO's The Corner and The Wire) and George Pelecanos (The Wire and the HBO miniseries The Pacific). Additional writers include New Orleans natives Lolis Elie (author and columnist for the New Orleans Times-Picayune) and Tom Piazza (author of the novel "City of Refuge" and "Why New Orleans Matters").