On a Brooklyn soundstage made to look like your uncle’s favorite dive bar, James Franco is slinging Schlitz as Vincent, a hard-scrabble bartender in ’70s New York City. Across from him sits Will Seefried, a New York University grad student. He’s standing in as Frankie, Vincent’s ne’er-do-well twin and Franco’s other role on HBO’s The Deuce.
Debuting this summer, the new series from David Simon and George Pelecanos (The Wire, Treme) examines life in Times Square before M&M’s World and those over-aggressive Elmos invaded, when porn was a burgeoning business—and an attractive one to people like Franco’s mustachioed alter egos.
If this whole thing is beginning to sound like another “Franco being Franco” joke, it’s worth mentioning that the 38-year-old also directs this particular episode (and one other). “That turned out to be the episode with the most twin scenes in the whole season,” Franco says months later. “Now that I look back, I do think it was pretty crazy.”
Frankie and Vincent are just two pieces in a vast ensemble that includes mobsters, pimps, and in the case of Maggie Gyllenhaal’s Candy, prostitutes. “The stereotypes and ideas we have about prostitutes and people who work in porn are too vague,” Gyllenhaal says. “I hope that this show, in a way, shines a bright enough light on a group of people who haven’t had one shone on them.”
If nothing else, The Deuce is an appealing happy-hour deal: two-for-one on Francos.