Ironside Writer Mick Betancourt
Writer Mick Betancourt goes from crime dramas to sports and back again
by Crystal Ann Taylor
Mick Betancourt explained in part one of this interview his journey from actor and standup comic to writing crime/thriller episodic dramas to co-executive producer of a sports drama, Necessary Roughness. Now he is tackling the reboot of Ironside for NBC as its co-executive producer. And if that isn’t enough to keep him busy, he has his own independent production company, Funnyhow Productions, which creates content for live and stage mediums as well as screen and TV.
For Mick Betancourt’s interview on writing for Necessary Roughness, click here.
To be able to do this, Betancourt must be comfortable dealing with all these different arenas. He explains the difference between writing for crime dramas and a show like Necessary Roughness as: “One is character driven, where the whole story comes through the POV of the main character, like Dr. Santino on Necessary Roughness, as opposed to a show like Law & Order: SVU which never breaks POV.” In other words, Betancourt explained, in the latter, the only action that ever happens on the screen is that what is seen by the cops. Thus, the audience and the characters are always on the same page.
But things have changed in this last season of Necessary Roughness, where darker elements have been added. “There is intrigue and mystery happening that Dr. Santino doesn’t see,” Betancourt revealed, “so the audience is ahead of her, making assumptions that may or not be right, so you can play with the audience’s expectations a little more.”
Betancourt confessed to liking to write both genres. “I had been writing procedural crime shows for so long, it was really nice to dive into more character driven stories. Although
Mob Doctor and Breakout Kings had moments of comedy and character too that I really enjoyed servicing.”As for Ironside, this 13-episode pickup is a reboot of NBC’s late ’60s/’70s series Ironside, which had the late Raymond Burr in the starring role that Blair Underwood is undertaking. This new version is executive produced by creator Michael Caleo (The Last Time), David Semel (American Horror Story, House M.D., Dawson’s Creek) and John Davis (Predator, I Robot, Chronicle).
Like the original, Robert T. Ironside is a police detective who is confined to a wheelchair after he is shot. He doesn’t allow his disability to stop him or his hand-picked team from solving cases for his New York City police department. This is a change of location from the original series where Ironside kept the streets of San Francisco safe.
Betancourt was brought on after the pilot was picked up to series. He explained how his hiring came about. “I tried to develop a show with David Semel years ago. He is crazy talented and has a great eye for action and story.” He was able to do this while being co-executive producer of Necessary Roughness. “I carved out language in my contract that allowed me to take meetings for network staffing season. So it timed out almost perfectly, going from one show to the next.”
He also has high praise for showrunner Ken Sanzel, who he says “is an ex-NY cop and an amazing writer so he will be bringing a reality to it that maybe some other showrunners couldn’t.” Although Blair Underwood’s Ironside will be in a wheelchair like Raymond Burr’s character was, this Ironside will be action-packed. “As the first scripts are coming in,” he said, “I think fans of gritty, character driven cops shows are really going to love the show.”
Asked if he could tease us with something he has written for Ironside, he was understandable vague. “Looks like I am writing episode #106 for Ironside. My episode has two act outs that if they make it past the network censors will be the most graphic and heartbreaking things I have ever written!”
Where a writer’s episode falls in the lineup is at the discretion of the showrunner who assigns them, Betancourt explained for his sixth slot. But an episode could move up or down a spot in the running order of the show, depending on how all the stories evolve. “As it is not a heavy serialized show, most episodes can go anywhere in the line-up.”
When laying out the stories for this first season of 13, each writer pitched the showrunner a story area first, Betancourt clarified. “If the showrunner likes it, he sends you off to break the story. That means putting the story on cards or on a dry erase board (writer’s choice), then when ready, take the showrunner through the beats of your episode. He will give notes, tighten things up, move some things around and when it’s in good enough shape, send you off to outline.”
Ironside will premiere this fall on NBC.
Click here For Mick Betancourt’s interview on writing for Necessary Roughness.