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Charlize Theron's 'Hatfields & McCoys' on NBC — An Expert Explains the Phenomenon

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Jun 08, 2012 | 7:02am EDT

Charlize TheronBy now, odds are you've seen, rewatched, and thrown a gigantic viewing party for the History Channel miniseries Hatfields & McCoys, which stars Kevin Costner, Bill Paxton, and Tom Berenger as figures in the famed rival West Virginia-Kentucky feud. The chances are high, seeing as how the underdog hit broke and then rebroke the ratings records. Jumping on the bandwagon of this surprising story is NBC. The Hollywood Reporter reports that the peacock network picked up a modern-day Hatfields and McCoys feud retelling, produced by Charlize Theron. Considering this new project, tie-ins with big cable series like American Pickers and Palm Stars, and CBS Sunday Morning's Hatfields and McCoys special set to air on June 10, it begs the question: How exactly did this age-old story suddenly became a pop culture phenomenon?

Hollywood.com reached out to West Virginia University educator Bill Richardson, a Hatfields and McCoys expert who contributed to the History Channel miniseries. Richardson expresses the inherent fascination in this piece of American history. "The Hatfields and McCoys story has got a little bit of everything. It's got these amazing characters doing these unbelievable things on this sort of Shakespearean scale. It has love stories. It has murder. Brother against brother, family member against family member."

Richardson continues, going into detail on how the story touches upon some of humanity's basest fantasies: "I think everybody, at one time, has been wronged, and has thought, 'I'd just like to punch that person in the face, or blow their brains out.' We don't do those things. But these characters actually do do those things. I think there's a certain living vicariously through these people, who give into their passions."

"We tried to make this as accurate as possible within the parameters of doing a narrative drama," Richardson says, regarding the History Channel miniseries.  "There are certain compromises you have to make when you're doing a narrative drama. You're compressing 25 years into about five hours of content ... But this is definitely the most accurate portrayal of those families, both in tone and in detail, that has been done so far."

But that doesn't mean Richardson isn't encouraged by any of the other projects in the works, mentioning specifically Theron's NBC program and an on-and-off Hatfields and McCoys movie that has been attached to Brad Pitt's name for a number of years. "If you've got Charlize Theron or Brad Pitt on there, that's going to give you plenty of candy."

Finally, Richardson touches upon how the success of Hatfields & McCoys has done wonders for his homeland of West Virginia. "All this is beyond my wildest expectations. It's giving us so much notice ... I live in the area where all of this stuff happened. I've been trying to develop this for tourism for a number of years. This is providing us with at least $120 million worth of marketing. And now, it's probably $200 million worth of marketing."

Richardson is currently in cooperation with the History Channel series How the States Got Their Shapes on the filming of an episode centered around the historical families.

Hatfields & McCoys

[Photo Credit: David Edwards/Daily Celeb]

More:

'Hatfields & McCoys' Success Proves TV Audiences Haven't Lost Their Attention Spans

'Hatfields & McCoys' Forever: Charlize Theron Eyes New Series

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