David Mills, born November 20, 1961 in Washington, District of Columbia, USA, was a journalist, writer and television producer. He died on March 30, 2010 (age 48) in New Orleans, Louisiana, USA of a brain aneurysm.
He was a frequent collaborator of The Wire creator David Simon. He joined the crew of The Wire for the fourth season in 2007, scripting two episodes before the conclusion of the series. He reunited with much of the creative team behind The Wire for the series Treme in 2010 and died suddenly after completing the first season.
Mills attended the University of Maryland, where he was on the staff of The Diamondback, the independent student newspaper. He met frequent collaborator David Simon while working on The Diamondback. While he was a student, Mills published This Magazine, a tabloid that failed after three editions. Later, he and a group of his friends published Uncut Funk, a zine that focused on the music of George Clinton and Parliament-Funkadelic.
After graduating, Mills became a features writer. He worked for The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Times, and The Washington Post. Among the many articles he wrote, Mills produced a number of controversial celebrity interviews. In 1989, Mills interviewed Professor Griff, a member of the hip hop group Public Enemy, for the Washington Times. During the interview, Griff made a number of antisemitic remarks, leading to criticism of the group.
Mills spoke with activist and rapper Sister Souljah in 1992 for the Washington Post. During the interview, the two spoke about the race riots that had taken place weeks earlier in Los Angeles after a predominantly-white jury acquitted four police officers who had been videotaped while beating a black motorist named Rodney King following a high-speed car chase. A controversial portion of the interview came when Mills asked Souljah whether violence was a rational response to outrage and she imagined the viewpoint of a participant and made the statement "Yeah, it was wise. I mean, if black people kill black people every day, why not have a week and kill white people?" The statement drew criticism from the President Bill Clinton. Also in 1992, Mills was nominated for the Pullitzer Prize for journalism for his work with The Washington Post.
In 1993 Mills wrote the script for an episode of Homicide: Life on the Street. The network series was based on the book, Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets, by Mills' college friend Simon. Simon was also a writer and producer of the show. The episode, called "Bop Gun", which featured Robin Williams as a guest star, aired in January 1994 as the second season premiere. Mills named the episode after a Parliament song, "Bop Gun (Endangered Species)"; one of the criminals featured in the episode claimed he shot someone in anger over the destruction of a rare record by Eddie Hazel, a member of Funkadelic. This was the first of many P-Funk references that Mills would incorporate into his screenplays. Mills and Simon won the WGA Award for Best Writing in a Drama for "Bop Gun". Mills said of the episode, "That script inspired me to quit journalism. It was a golden opportunity, even though I didn't know what I was doing. I developed bad habits as a newspaper feature writer. I would always stretch a project to fill the available time." Mills wrote two more episodes for Homicide, one each in 1995 and 1998.
At a professional writer's seminar during 1994, David Milch, the co-creator of NYPD Blue, tried to explain why there were so few African-American screenwriters. He said that "in the area of drama, it was difficult for black American writers to write successfully for a mass audience". In response to Milch's comments, which were made public by The Washington Post, Mills wrote a letter in which he challenged Milch's assumptions concerning Black writers. As a result, Milch hired Mills as a writer for NYPD Blue.
Mills wrote nine episodes of NYPD Blue between 1995 and 1997. In one of those episodes, "Closing Time", recovering alcoholic Andy Sipowicz begins drinking again and is beaten by a group of young men who steal his gun. Before the men confront Sipowicz, they are arguing about whether Bootsy Collins or Larry Graham is the better bass player. This is another one of Mills's P-Funk references in his work. Looking back on his experience working on NYPD Blue, Mills would later write, "Milch didn't hire me just to get Jesse Jackson off ABC's back. He gave me a shot, I rose to the occasion, and he became a true mentor to me."
Between 1997 and 1999, Mills wrote four episodes of ER. He is credited with creating the character of "Rocket" Romano.
During 1999, David Simon was asked to adapt his book The Corner: A Year in the Life of an Inner-City Neighborhood into a miniseries for HBO. Simon invited Mills to co-write and co-produce the six-part miniseries, also called The Corner. The critically acclaimed program, which ran during 2000, was awarded three Primetime Emmys. Simon and Mills won the award for Outstanding Writing for a Miniseries, Movie, or Dramatic Special, they shared the award for Outstanding Mini-Series with two co-producers, and director Charles S. Dutton won the Emmy for Outstanding Directing for a Miniseries, Movie or Dramatic Special.
Mills's next project was the development of an original miniseries for NBC. In another P-Funk reference, Mills named his production company Knee Deep Productions, a reference to Funkadelic's 1979 hit "(Not Just) Knee Deep".
Mills development work led him to create Kingpin, a six-part drama series that aired during 2003 about the head of a Mexican drug cartel and his business and family lives. It was expected to be network television's answer to HBO's hit series The Sopranos, but lackluster ratings forced NBC to cancel plans to extend the miniseries into a full-length series.
In 2006 Mills with Simon as part of the writing staff for The Wire. He joined the crew of the fourth season as a writer. He wrote the teleplay for "Soft Eyes" from a story he co-wrote with producer Ed Burns. Mills and the writing staff won the Writers Guild of America (WGA) Award for Best Dramatic Series at the February 2008 ceremony and the 2007 Edgar Award for Best Television Feature/Mini-Series Teleplay, both for their work on the fourth season.
He returned as a writer for the fifth season in 2008. Mills wrote the episode "React Quotes". Mills and the writing staff were nominated for the WGA Award for Best Dramatic Series at the February 2009 ceremony for their work on the fifth season but Mad Men won the award.
Mills reunited with much of the creative team behind The Wire on their next ongoing drama series for HBO, Treme. He served as a co-executive producer and senior writer for the project. Mills died of a brain aneurysm on March 30, 2010, at the Tulane Medical Center in New Orleans, Louisiana, twelve days before the premiere of Treme. Two weeks after his death, 80 members of the cast and crew of the show dedicated a tree in New Orleans' City Park in Mills's memory. As the Rebirth Brass Band played, the group ate apple-filled Hubig's Pies from wrappers stamped with "David Mills 1961–2010/Won't Bow, Don't Know How".
|Season 4 credits|
|"Boys of Summer"||"Soft Eyes"||"Home Rooms"||"Refugees"||"Alliances"|
|"Margin of Error"||"Unto Others"||"Corner Boys"||"Know Your Place"||"Misgivings"|
|"A New Day"||"That's Got His Own"||"Final Grades"|
|Season 5 credits|
|"More with Less"||"Unconfirmed Reports"||"Not for Attribution"||"Transitions"||"React Quotes"|
|"The Dickensian Aspect"||"Took"||"Clarifications"||"Late Editions"||"-30-"|