Memphis Beat centers on Dwight Hendricks (Jason Lee), a quirky Memphis police detective with an intimate connection to the city, a passion for blues music and a close relationship with his mother. He is "the keeper of Memphis," a Southern gentleman who is protective of his fellow citizens, reverential of the city's history and deeply rooted in its blues music scene.
Despite his impeccable instincts as a detective, Dwight's loose, relaxed style of police work rubs his demanding new boss, Lt. Tanya Rice (Alfre Woodard), the wrong way. But Dwight may eventually win her over to a Memphis state of mind, especially when he takes the stage at his favorite hangout to perform a legendary song or two.
MEMPHIS BEAT co-stars DJ Qualls as Davey Sutton, a uniform cop who considers himself to be Dwight's protégé. Also starring are Celia Weston (Junebug) as Dwight's effervescent mother; Sam Hennings (Saving Grace) as Charlie White, aka Whitehead, Dwight's seasoned, hypertensive partner; Leonard Earl Howze (Barbershop) as Reginald Greenback, a fellow detective struggling to make ends meet with two teenage daughters; and Abraham Benrubi (ER) as Sgt. JC Lightfoot, an officer who uses Chickasaw tribal wisdom in his police work.
MEMPHIS BEAT was created by Liz W. Garcia (Cold Case) and Joshua Harto (The Dark Knight), who also wrote the first two episodes. Harto, who grew up in the South and has spent a lot of time with his country-musician grandfather, sees the show's setting as a chance to spotlight one of America's great cities. "Memphis has been largely forgotten in film and TV today," he says. "It's where the blues and Johnny Cash and Elvis came from. It's where Martin Luther King was assassinated and where Isaac Hayes and Aretha Franklin were born and raised. It's the perfect blend of drama and humor for our show."
Music is just as vital to MEMPHIS BEAT as its unique characters, drama and humor is the music. "Music is a huge part of this show," Garcia says. "It has to be. You can't live in Memphis and not have your life steeped in music. The city has a soundtrack."
To get that perfect Memphis feel, the production team approached noted blues singer/songwriter Keb' Mo'. He will provide original compositions and performances for the show to supplement classic Memphis tracks.
MEMPHIS BEAT is executive-produced by Clooney, Heslov, Garcia, Harto, John Fortenberry (It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia) and Scott Kaufer (Boston Legal). Sean Whitesell (House M.D.) and Smokehouse Pictures' Abby Wolf-Weiss are co-executive producers. The pilot was directed and executive-produced by Emmy® nominee Clark Johnson (The Shield). Harto and Garcia are a husband-and-wife team. Harto is also an actor.