‘Tulsa King’: Sylvester Stallone Is Ready to Rule in Oklahoma
Sylvester Stallone swaggers into his first major television role as a New York City mobster, vital 75-year-old Dwight “The General” Manfredi, in this series with behind-the-camera talent as prestigious as its star: Tulsa King is conceived by hitmaker Taylor Sheridan (Yellowstone) and written by master of the Mafia genre Terence Winter (Boardwalk Empire, The Sopranos). The drama streams on Paramount+ but, as an enticement, Episodes 1 and 2 air on Paramount Network after Yellowstone’s first two Season 5 episodes.
Stallone sets up the show: “Dwight Manfredi has a dark side, but he’s also witty and a real tactician. He was at the top of his game until he took the fall for someone else. During 25 years in prison, he goes through a revival and finds his philosophical side. Dwight has regrets and remorse, but it’s the only life he knows. Upon his release he returns to that life, expecting a reward, but instead has been exiled to Tulsa, almost as a punishment, to start a mob.”
Manfredi feels betrayed by his longtime employers, the Invernizzis: ailing old crime boss Pete (A.C. Peterson) and his son, de facto leader Chickie (Domenick Lombardozzi, The Wire). Manfredi’s devotion to them has left him estranged from his twentysomething daughter. “Everything he does is motivated by that ticking clock to undo the damage [to that relationship],” Winter says.
Still, Manfredi needs to make a living. Oklahoma may feel like another planet, but he starts putting a crew together within minutes of touching down. He recruits his airport cabbie, clever college dropout Tyson (Jay Will), as his personal driver and pulls in a CBD dispensary owner, chill Bodhi (Martin Starr). “They have a business arrangement pretty quickly — based on Dwight being a bull in a china shop,” Winter says.
As Manfredi establishes himself, he flies back and forth to New York, where he butts heads with Chickie. “There’s action, drama, tension, poignancy — and comedy born of absurdity,” says Winter, who teases a scene where the Oklahoma crew goes to a weed farm, Manfredi indulges, and the guys drive around as he waxes philosophical.
As you’d expect from a Sheridan show, Manfredi meets some typical Western types: the rich, formidable owner of a horse farm, Margaret (Dana Delany), and a cowboy bar owner, Mitch (Garrett Hedlund). Manfredi finds a kindred spirit in the man, a former bull rider who became addicted to pain pills and did time. One night they’re out on the town, and Manfredi meets another New York transplant (Andrea Savage), an ATF agent pursuing militia groups. “They’re drawn to each other, but neither knows the story of the other one until later in the game,” Winter says.
And that game gets dangerous. “As nice and funny as Dwight is, and Sly brings that enormous likability, Dwight is a gangster. When he needs to turn that on, you see it,” Winter says. Can Manfredi rule Tulsa? Stallone thinks so: “There are characters who would like to see Dwight get lost. But he is the general. He’s there to get a job done, whether people like it or not.”
Tulsa King, Series Premiere, Sunday, November 13, Paramount+ & Paramount Network