The story of Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o’s fake girlfriend might provide some very real inspiration for the producers of USA’s Necessary Roughness.
As details continue to emerge about Te’o encounter with an alleged internet hoax — which led him to believe his girlfriend, whom he’d never met in person and did not actually exist, died of cancer — executive producers and co-creators Liz Kruger and Craig Shapiro say they’re considering using the story for inspiration in an episode in the next season.
“We only just now started to map out season 3, [but] of course it comes up about every five minutes in the [writer's] room,” says Shapiro. “We’ve yet to determine if we’ve figured out a way how to slot it into what we do on our show, [but] we’d like to.”
The trick, they say, would be getting Te’o’s story to fit within the world of Necessary Roughness, which stars Callie Thorne as sports psychotherapist Dani Santino.
“We like to look at the inside sports. You see it from the outside when you’re reading about it on the internet, but we like to say, ‘Let’s go through the backdoor and see what happened behind closed doors, what that looks like, and why it was done,’” says Kruger.
“Also, what’s the personal angle,” adds Shapiro. “We see [sports stars] as remote figures who turn up in the paper and on Sports Center every night, but they’re actually real people who are trying to navigate like everyone else — just on a bigger stage and with higher stakes.”
Necessary Roughness, which kicked off the second half of its second season on Wednesday, often takes inspiration from real stories and controversial issues within the sports community. In fact, the final two episodes of the current season, airing Feb. 15 and 20, are about a star professional football player who comes out of the closet. “I do think it’s the most interesting story in sports right now,” says Kruger. “There’s a lot of gay players right now and nobody wants to be the first — to be the second is not so difficult. Once somebody breaks down the doors, it’s so easy to walk through.”
Kruger said the issue is especially timely, considering Te’o found himself at the center of gay rumors after Deadspin‘s revelatory article exposing the hoax. Te’o adamantly denied those rumors on Katie Couric’s talk show yesterday, which was also his first public interview and a ratings hit. The story’s ability to transcend the sports world only adds to the appeal of adapting the story for the show, Kruger says.
“There’s something about it that just appeals and is interesting to everybody,” he says. “Those are always the kinds of stories we want to try to find — where the human condition is larger than just some small sports tale.”