In a time of political corruption, two undercover cops team up to take back the streets of New York from the bad guys, while taking back the city from the crooked Mayor who cost them their jobs. The action/comedy web series RAW HEAT, co-created by, and starring, James Manzo and Michael Rasulo, is set for its second season, with six to nine episodes planned. Manzo plays detective Douglas Rawthorne, a hardened ex-cop who teams up with his partner, John McHeat (Rasulo) to fight the city’s toughest crooks, as well as a corrupt political establishment, led by New York Mayor Barnabie (Theodore Bouloukos) who kicked both men off of the force. The show also stars Al Burgo as their boss, Chief Frank Scaramelli. The new season, says Manzo, promises more action, more blood, and more fighting, as both men seek not only to clean up the streets, but also seek revenge against New York’s corrupt Mayor.
RAW HEAT was first developed in 2008. Originally, there were three characters, each of whom were brothers in the story, but when pre-production got going a year later, the show’s two primary characters, now unrelated, were fully fleshed out. The series was inspired not only by popular “buddy cop” movies, but also has elements of many blockbuster action thrillers. In addition, Manzo’s co-star Rasulo also played a primary role in the development of the series, and of his tough guy character, John. “He’s always making these characters, and we’re always coming up and talking. He just had this macho man type character he’d been developing. The inspiration for all that had always been DEATH WISH, or DIE HARD, LETHAL WEAPON (the first one), the ultra violent era of action films,” recalls Manzo. The show’s six episodes were filmed in the summer of 2011, in spite of a myriad series of difficulties, not the least of which was trying to find places to shoot each episode (aside from interior filming). It all ended up being an exercise in “guerrilla filmmaking”, according to Manzo.
The show’s unique blend of comedy and action sets RAW HEAT apart from many other web series, along with the surreal, gritty world depicted in each episode. “We’re following a sort of formula of buddy cop, exploitation, 1980s-y, ‘70s feel, but we definitely try to steer clear of completely mocking the genre, with fake mustaches and wigs. We actually just built an actual world that could possibly be this world, but is its own unique thing, especially with the comedy. We didn’t try to just hit on all the obvious jokes. A lot of it is somewhat subtle, and it also has a surreal element to it. (We’re) definitely not trying to be just a mockery of that genre, and pay homage to it, in kind of a genuine way,” says Manzo.
The pursuit of filmmaking has been Manzo’s main passion, one that goes back to his teenage years. “I’ve been making films since I was in junior high, so that’s something that’s always been like a drive. My friends and I (who I’m actually working with on RAW HEAT), were always creating these very surrealistic environments and worlds, comedy, heavy inspiration from MONTY PYTHON. RAW HEAT’s the very first thing I’ve ever written, so it’s really kind of opened my mind. I’ve been wanting to write, and probably my friend (Khan) who directs RAW HEAT, just watching the way he works and his drive. That kind of inspired me to finally just be, you know, f*ck it, let me do this, get this stuff out of my head and onto paper.”
Yet, amidst all the action-packed thrills and humor that RAW HEAT brings, Manzo believes that the show is all about two basic themes – revenge, and perseverance, especially in the most difficult of circumstances. “RAW HEAT definitely has a lot of political undertones. I’m very blatantly showing a very corrupt, horrible human being as the mayor of New York, or Bizarro New York, and all the evil that he is, and showing people just wanting absolute power, and crushing the few people who try to do any type of good, and their struggles to persevere, and to come up through that, and survive the onslaught of corrupt cops.”
ON THE WEB: www.rawheat.tv