If you were looking to calm the 150-year-old feud between the Hatfields and McCoys, where else would you find your diplomat than in peaceful South Florida? That’s where the History Channel found the man for the thankless job.
There was no doubting the success of the 2012 three-part History Channel miniseries “Hatfields & McCoys,” which produced record ratings for the network and 16 Emmy nominations (with wins for Kevin Costner and Tom Berenger).
The History Channel is hoping to strike gold in the Appalachians again beginning at 10 Thursday night with “Hatfields & McCoys: White Lightning,” a reality show hosted by Hollywood resident Monsell Darville.
The premise involves a simple proposition: Will the kin of original feuding patriarchs Devil Anse Hatfield and Randall McCoy put aside their animosity long enough to create a potentially lucrative business, specifically a “Hatfields & McCoys”-branded moonshine? To get there, the families must share their legendary recipes, well water and family labor. Does peace stand a chance?
“The vibe was one of incredible distrust, not only because of their dislike for each other, but they have been taken advantage of so much historically that they don’t believe what anyone tells them,” says Darville, a former executive for Bacardi and Grey Goose who was brought in for his spirits development and branding acumen. “They assume they are about to be ripped off again.”
Darville, who spent weeks in the remote hills on the West Virginia-Kentucky border, says the show begins with a reality TV staple: Members of each family arrive at a meeting not knowing the others will be there.
“You’ll see that they are extremely pissed off at me,” Darville says. At first the families wanted to go their own way on the moonshine. “I told them the country really is not interested in a Hatfield product and a McCoy product, but together it’s an extraordinary story. They needed to trust each other and trust me.”
“White Lightning” is not without its lighter moments, as in the first episode, when descendents Mark Hatfield and Jim McCoy settle a dust-up over who’s got the stronger moonshine by racing classic cars powered by their own brews.
“Hatfields & McCoys: White Lightning” is scheduled to run for 16 weeks, with one-hour episodes opening and closing the series of 30-minute segments. If all goes according to plan, Darville says, the families’ moonshine would first be sold locally in West Virginia, then roll out to select markets around the country.
More info: History.com