New TV series will examine the lives of Bay of Pigs veterans

Unidentified Brigade 2505 members shown here training at Base Trax training camp in Guatemala. Here they are learning to fire mortar shells. Circa early 1961.
Unidentified Brigade 2505 members shown here training at Base Trax training camp in Guatemala. Here they are learning to fire mortar shells. Circa early 1961. Photo courtesy of Esteban Bovo

Cuba hasn’t been this hot in Hollywood since the night Little Ricky was born on “I Love Lucy.” Fresh off the news of a blockbuster deal for a movie about Cuban-American gangsters, Miami producers Tony Gonzalez and Jose Daniel “Jaydee” Freixas have signed a major production deal for a TV series about the exile soldiers who invaded Cuba at the Bay of Pigs.

Not only did Gonzalez and Freixas sign a co-production deal with Cedar Park Entertainment, a hot new Hollywood studio, for their planned show “The Exiles,” they snagged a respected veteran TV producer to write and run it: Cuban-born, Miami-bred Cynthia Cidre.

Cidre, a 60-year-old graduate of Miami High and the University of Miami who came to the United States with her family at age 10, wrote the hit film “The Mambo Kings” and created the 2012 reboot of “Dallas,” which had a successful three-year television run before being felled by the death of star Larry Hagman.

A group of men in a jungle examine a map diagramming the plan of action for the Bay of Pigs invasion at a secret base somewhere in the Caribbean on April 5, 1963. Inadequate and confused planning were blamed in part for the invasion’s failure. Manolo Casanova ASSOCIATED PRESS

She also created the only previous prime-time television drama set in the Cuban-American milieu: “Cane,” a critically acclaimed 2007 CBS show about an imperiously wealthy family in the sugar business that survived a fierce legal challenge by South Florida’s real-life Fanjul clan but died in the chaos of a lengthy Hollywood writer’s strike.

“Getting Cynthia to sign on was a major catch for us,” Gonzalez said.

“The Exiles,” he said, will follow the sometimes-dark path of the Bay of Pigs military force through the Cold War history that followed their disastrously failed 1961 invasion.

“After they returned from Cuba, President Kennedy offered these guys a deal — American citizenship in turned for joining the U.S. Army,” said Gonzalez. “Almost 500 of them took it. They’d already had basic military training for the Bay of Pigs, they already had been willing to fight communism in Cuba, and the American government thought, ‘We can indoctrinate them to fight communism in Africa or Latin America or wherever it shows up.’ 

Bay of Pigs vets did see combat in Vietnam and Africa (where, ironically, they fought other Cuban forces sent by Fidel Castro). But, Gonzalez noted, they also ended up in some unexpected and controversial places. “The Kennedy assassination, Iran-contra, Watergate, there are Cuban footprints all over these important historical events,” he said. “We’re going to tell that story.”

At Miami’s Orange Bowl, veterans of the Bay of Pigs were honored by President John F. Kennedy, who had arranged for their release from Cuban prisons.

Gonzalez and Freixas were virtually unknown 18 months ago. But since then, with veteran crime writer T.J. English, they put together a major nonfiction book about the Cuban-American underworld called “The Corporation” and sold it to Hollywood for a film that will star Benicio del Toro and be co-produced by Leonardo DiCaprio.

English, the author, will join Gonzalez and Freixas as executive producers on “The Exiles.” So will Cedar Park Entertainment bosses Chris Long, who launched DirecTV’s original-programming Audience Channel, and David Ayer, who has written such films as “Training Day” and “Suicide Squad.”