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'Tulsa King' Team Talks Dropping One Mafioso in the Middle of America

Cowboys and cornfields are a big change for Sylvester Stallone's character in the Paramount+ drama.

Danielle Turchiano
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'Tulsa King'

Paramount+

When you end up in Tulsa, Okla. after being a legendary mob capo, you question your life choices. At least that is what Dwight "The General" Manfredi (Sylvester Stallone) is going through in Tulsa King.

The new series from showrunner Terence Winter centers on Dwight after he gets out of prison after 25 years. He went in to take the fall for his mob boss, sacrificing everything in his life, including his relationship with his daughter, in doing so, and he expects to be compensated well when he gets out. But unfortunately for him, his boss' son is now the one in charge, and he doesn't have loyalty to Dwight. Hence why he ships Dwight off to Tulsa.

"Acting in that world, it's almost been a fantasy since I was rejected as being one of the 200 extras standing behind a wedding cake in the Godfather film," Stallone said with a laugh during the Television Critics Association press tour panel for the series.

But more seriously, Stallone wanted to take on a "different animal than you would normally see in a quote-gangster film." Dwight is intelligent in a Machiavellian way, he noted, but now he's out of his element and has to find a new family with a group of "misfits" that include "cowboys, women...a guy who runs a weed store."

"The goal was to take Dwight as far away from New York as possible," Winter said. "Tulsa is really middle America. It's a beautiful location, but you will not mistake it for anything but what it is. You are out in wide open spaces with blue skies. So for a guy like Dwight, who grew up on the streets of Brooklyn and of New York, to walk out into the middle of that, and suddenly you're in the middle of cowboys and cornfields, [it's a big change]."

"It's not really about a mafia family as much as it is about one particular mafioso," he continued. "The conflicts he faces are very different. In Tulsa, Dwight's on his own. He's still expected to earn money, which he sends back to New York, but the people he's encountering are very different from what he would in a traditional mob setting."

While Dwight is a fish out of water in Tulsa, so too is Stacy Beale (Andrea Savage), a woman who wakes up in her 40s to major change, the actor shared. That was something she found relatable because she feels everyone experiences shifts where you have to look around and say, "What do I actually have and who do I have in my corner?"

Tulsa King is also executive produced by David C. Glasser and Yellowstone creator Taylor Sheridan, who Stallone has known for years and was the reason he signed on to star in and also executive produce this series.

"I met Taylor a while back, actually riding horses in California. I wanted him to write the screenplay for Rambo because I was getting lazy," Stallone said with a laugh. Years later when Sheridan told him about this idea, Stallone said he said he was "in" instantaneously.

"I grew up around a lot of these mugs, and they're very interesting," he said. "So I've got the tempo, I've got the idea, I've got the attitude; I understand the street life very, very well."

The street life in Tulsa looks different than what Dwight knew of it in New York though, not only because of the new Western setting, but also because he is a new man. In prison, Winter said, Dwight spent a lot of time reading and becoming a better person, so now he is reluctant about doling out violence.

"He's really smart, he's witty, he's sarcastic, he's dry, he's intelligent. There's a lot to play with there," Winter said.

"Most people get what life is about so we don't have to do a great deal of exposition and we stick to the gems that the audience can relate to," Stallone added. "The more the audience can say, 'That's what I'm going through, but I didn't think a gangster would' — yeah we do. We all deal with the frailties of man."

Tulsa King premieres Nov. 13 on Paramount+.