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'Gang Related' explores Los Angeles' darker side

By Piya Sinha-Roy

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Los Angeles' gangs and police clash in gritty new Fox drama series "Gang Related", an exploration of the city's darker side with a hero that isn't quite what he seems as he treads the line between family and the law.

"Gang Related," premiering on Thursday, centers on Detective Ryan Lopez, played by Ramon Rodriguez, a gang member who is part of the Los Angeles Police Department's gang task force, and forced to hide his ties to the gang family he was brought up in.

The Fox Broadcasting series is created by Chris Morgan, the writer of the last five "Fast & Furious" car-racing films, who said he wanted to explore the origins of gang culture in Los Angeles, a theme that he believes has larger resonance.

"If you look at the history of our country, we actually are founded on gangs," Morgan told Reuters. "People have come to America searching for the American dream, and a lot of the times because of their background or their ethnicity, they were shut out."

In the show, a young orphaned Ryan is rescued and taken in by mob boss Javier Acosta (Cliff Curtis), who becomes a father figure to him, telling him to get trained in the military and infiltrate the police forces in order to report back to him.

But after his cop partner is killed by a member of his own gang, Ryan finds his allegiances fraying, and he begins to play a dangerous game to do what he thinks is right, a path that holds many challenges said actor Rodriguez.

"My heart broke for him because he doesn't get to be vulnerable often," the actor said. "I think everything he's done wears on his soul and conscience, and he carries a very big burden, and I would never want to deal with that."

To prepare for his role, Rodriguez went on ride-alongs with Los Angeles police and learned that many of the areas that were formerly dominated by black gangs, have now been overtaken by Mexican or South Americans, something that Javier echoes in the pilot when he menacingly utters "Brown is the new Black."

Set against the backdrop of a Los Angeles that isn't often showcased in Hollywood fare, "Gang Related" delves into neighborhoods such as Korea Town and East Los Angeles to show gang communities formed by minorities.

The show's producer Brian Grazer said the city plays a key character in the arc of the show's series.

"The concept of the show is born out of LA and it's such a secular city and because of the topography of it, it hasn't really been shot in a cool way in a long time," he said.

"Ultimately what the show is supposed to do is create empathy and understanding of both sides. Why people go into gangs, why people get trapped into gangs, and how difficult it is to get out," he added.

(Reporting by Piya Sinha-Roy; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)

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