By Bel Hernandez
Award-winning executive producer Dennis Leoni has sealed a development deal with PBS for a pilot of the new drama series Alta California. Back in 2000 Leoni’s Resurrection Blvd. made TV history as the first drama series to be centered around a Latino family when it aired on Showtime for three seasons.
In Alta California Leoni has created another series centered around Latinos, this time it takes place in the mid 1800’s and is about two families, a native Californian Mexican family and a European-American family.
It seems PBS is aggressively looking to capture the English-speaking Latino audience. This fall, PBS will air Latino Americans, a three-part docu-series narrated by Benjamin Bratt. With the order of the Alta California pilot, it appears this is another step in that direction.
Since Resurrection Blvd. went off the air in 2002, there has been no other drama series centered around Latinos on network TV in spite of the show garnering critical accolades and awards. However, Resurrection Blvd., served as the springboard for Leoni to continue to pursue other network opportunities. He has written several pilot scripts over for years for NBC, Showtime, ABC and Fox Television Studios, but as they say it only take one network to say yes and that network is PBS.
“First off, let me say that Resurrection Blvd. – other than my familial experiences – has been the greatest experience of my life,” Leoni told Al Carlos Hernandez of LatinoLA. “It put me on the map, so to speak, and shoved me out into the spotlight giving me access to people, places and things that most people only dream about. It is also the flagship of my creative legacy
Leoni credits Resurrection Blvd., which ran for three seasons as “…ground breaking for Latinos. It helped Showtime make serious inroads into encouraging Latinos to purchase Showtime as part of their cable package”.
In 2011 Leoni took his passion for writing the American Latino story on the web. He wrote and executive produced Los Americans for PIC.TV an eight-part series which focuses the Valenzuela family, a multi-generational, middle-income Latino family dealing with life in Los Angeles.
Leoni has teamed up with Jerry Offsay, former president of Showtime, who will also executive produce to executive produce, on the Alta California pilot.
Leoni is repped by Gersh, Haven Entertainment and Hirsch Wallerstein.