ON THE SET: John from Cincinnati

posted by / News / January 30, 2007

***Editors Note**** In an article in Surfing’s March 2007 issue [“On the Set,” page 61] regarding the upcoming HBO TV series “John from Cincinnati,” about a family of surfers in {{{Imperial}}} Beach, one of the show’s writers, former Surfer magazine editor Steve Hawk, overstated the role of the Fletcher family in the show. Here is the official word from HBO regarding Herbie and Dibi Fletcher’s relationship to the show: “We are working with the Fletchers as consultants on this project as they are experts in the world of surfing, and in the interest of authenticity they, along with co-executive producer Kem Nunn and others who live in the surfing world, help advise on many of the issues in the series that pertain to that world. HBO did not acquire the Fletchers’ life story rights, and the series is not based on the Fletchers. The fact that our story includes a multigenerational surfing family was simply a creative choice used to develop the story of “John;” any perceived similarities between the surfing Yosts and the Fletcher family is coincidental. As to the decision to cast Greyson Fletcher in the role of the Yost surfing grandson, Shaun, David Milch met Greyson on set and thought he could be perfect for the role, as he is an excellent skateboarder and understands the world. As a bonus, he turned out to be a very good little actor.”

A mysterious stranger shows up on the doorstep of one of surfing’s most legendary families, and thus HBO’s newest hit drama begins. As surfers, we can’t help but be skeptical. We’ve been hurt before. North Shore. Point Break. Meet the Deedles. It’s all been a bit insulting, really. So what makes this time around any different?


Well, that’s just what the makers of John from Cincinnati asked themselves — and that just might make all the difference. The show is the brainchild of HBO and David Milch, who’s the writer and executive producer of HBO’s Deadwood series, a huge hit with a cult-like audience. One of the writers on Deadwood just happened to be Kem Nunn, author of three of the best surf fiction books out there: Tapping the Source, Dogs of Winter and Tijuana Sloughs. When HBO asked Milch if he’d be interested in overseeing a show about surfers, Milch turned to Nunn. The novelist suggested setting the story in Imperial Beach, where his most recent book took place, thus enabling the show to engage such sordid issues as illegal aliens, border disputes and the pollution of the Tijuana River Valley. Herbie and Dibi Fletcher are consultants, and Steve Hawk, former editor of Surfer magazine, is one of the show’s staff writers

In case you’re not familiar with Milch and Deadwood, well, as Hawk puts it: “It’s funny, gritty, and pretty f—king vulgar. It’s definitely gonna be an R-rated thing.”

So, this savant-like stranger (John, played by Austin Nichols) arrives in Imperial Beach and gets mixed up with the dysfunctional Yost Family, a multi-generational collection of surfers. There’s the grandfather, Mitch (played by Bruce Greenwood), a former superstar from the Gerry Lopez era, who only surfs alone and is embittered toward the industry; his thirty-something son, Butchie (played by Brian {{{Van}}} Holt), one of the sport’s most famous bad-boy pros who also dropped out of the scene and is now a self-destructive heroin addict; and Butchie’s teenage son, Shaun (played by Christian Fletcher’s son Greyson), also a surf prodigy who wants to compete but is forbidden by his grandfather

Meanwhile, HBO has hired big-wave legend Brock Little to be the show’s stunt coordinator, women’s WCTer Keala Kennelly to play a local shaper and surfer, surf cinematographer Sonny Miller to handle the action shots, and such rippers as Dan Malloy, John-John Florence, Shane Beschen and Herbie Fletcher to do the surf-stunt work. “It’s a really big priority for everyone that we make this show credible to surfers,” explains Hawk. “That’s one of the reasons they brought me on to write and the Fletchers as consultants, and why they’re using all these other key surf figures.”

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