Eric Overmyer knows New Orleans. The Treme executive producer and writer has lived here part-time for 20 years. "My wife calls us 'Near Orleanians,' " Overmyer says. "It feels like home, much more so than New York City does, and always has ever since the first time I came here." Over the years Overmyer has often hosted David Simon, his friend and creative partner on Treme, for Jazz Fest and Mardi Gras. The two first started discussing the ideas that would evolve into the show in 1995-96.
"We always said, 'Wouldn't it be great to do a show about New Orleans, because no one has ever done it right,' " Overmyer says. Fast forward to 2005, when Overmyer and Simon were both working on the smash-hit HBO series The Wire as it was starting to wind down. Simon thought Katrina might serve as a way to frame a show on New Orleans for HBO, but Overmyer at first didn't agree. He had pitched a number of shows about New Orleans over the years and had grown weary of being turned down. "I said, 'No, it's too late, we missed our chance.' But David is persistent that way, sort of a bulldog," Overmyer says.
Real-life tragedy struck Treme last week when co-executive producer and writer David Mills died from an aneurysm while on the set of the show in the French Quarter. "He was especially valuable not only because he was a great writer, but because he had never been to New Orleans and knew nothing about it — he had a fresh view. David Simon and I are so in love with New Orleans we get seduced by it. As we started working on the stories, David Mills kept saying, 'All this Mardi Gras Indian stuff is great, but what's the show about?' It was a really good question to have posed all the time. His contribution was immense."