April 22, 2015
In The Mix

A Dream Come True, on Two Coasts

Hillary Atkin

Though Philly-born, Jeff Rake likes to say that he grew up on the mean streets of Encino.

The Locals get the joke — Encino is a placid LA. suburb.

But the showrunner and executive producer of NBC's The Mysteries of Laura — which is set in New York — currently spends about a quarter of his time in the Big Apple. Production on the freshman show, which stars Debra Messing as an NYPD homicide detective and is based on a Spanish format, takes place at Silvercup Studios in Queens.

"My adaptation of the pilot was incredibly faithful," he says, leading up to another joke. "So in other words, I ripped it off. Even though I Americanized it, the core element of a take-no-prisoners everywoman constantly defying expectations was on the page."

Rake's career, which includes co-creating The Street (Fox) and Miss Match (NBC) with Darren Star, has defied his own expectations. He graduated from law school, clerked for two federal judges and joined one of L.A.'s top firms,

It was during his tenure there that he followed a "crazy dream," taking a leave of absence in 1996 to write and produce Hound Dog: A hip hOpera, a rap-based sendup of Elvis Presley. The play starred a then little-known Wayne Brady,

"That was my epiphany moment, when I realized there was another path for me," he recalls. "All of a sudden, there was a new world order."

Rake entered the television business, putting his legal knowledge to work on The Practice and Boston Legal.

But first, there was the short-lived The Street.

"The uncommon and lucky thing about that is, I went from obscurity to co-creating my own show," Rake says, "Most TV creators have paid their dues in other writing rooms, learning the ropes. I leapfrogged over that. But many years later, I realized you learn a lot by working for other people."

While Laura was originally set in Los Angeles, Messing requested that it be shot in New York. Rake, who lives in LA., travels there every three weeks during production.

"Notwithstanding the stress and exhaustion, it's everything you work for in a writing career."

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