When James Comey, who was FBI director until President Trump fired him on May 9, was a kid, he admired Efrem Zimbalist, Jr. starring as Inspector Erskine on the TV series, “The FBI.” As FBI director, Comey felt there was nothing like that today depicting the FBI favorably and appealing to young people.
So he looked for ways to solve that problem, which ultimately led to “Inside the FBI: NY,” a documentary series currently airing on the USA Network. “The director said, we’re looking for a way to reach out to young people so they can get to know the FBI,” executive producer Marc Levin tells Yahoo Finance in the video above. “He wanted a more transparent FBI.”
The first idea was a fictional, scripted series, like “The Wire.” But when Levin’s partner, Dick Wolf—known for “Law & Order” and other shows—visited the FBI’s New York office to get ideas, he thought it would be more interesting to film actual operations of the real FBI. Comey gave the go-ahead, and in 2015, crews began filming in New York.
The show may disappoint viewers looking for shootouts and car chases, but it still generates tension by profiling agents at home, as they prepare for risky takedowns, and following them into dangerous confrontations with some of the nation’s scariest criminals. Levin’s cameras capture details of secret operations rarely or never aired.
Comey reportedly loved the series. “You need the best and the brightest,” Levin says. “You need to retain them. He saw this as a way of helping that.”
Levin still interacts frequently with the FBI, and he heard from many bureau employees after Trump fired Comey. Trump said in a tweet that he’d find another FBI director “who will do a better job, bringing back the spirit and prestige of the FBI.” But Trump has it wrong, Levin says.
“There was shock, dismay, tears,” at the FBI after Comey’s firing, Levin says. “He was very popular. There was tremendous affection for him and that was mischaracterized by the White House.”
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Rick Newman is the author of four books, including Rebounders: How Winners Pivot from Setback to Success. Follow him on Twitter: @rickjnewman.