Savannah native Bruce Feiler reflects on 10 years of ‘Council of Dads,’ and new NBC show

In the darkest moment of his life, he came up with the Council of Dads. Now nearly 10 years later, Bruce Feiler is seeing his imagination brought to life in the form of an NBC series.

“The thing that I most wanted then, and in some ways now all these years later … is for the idea to find other people when they are in similar moments of fear and in need,” he said. “This idea is just bigger than us.”

The size of the idea has been a steady growth. First bequeathed to the world in 2010 with the release of “The Council of Dads: My Daughters, My Illness, and the Men Who Could Be Me,” the idea bore from the book that detailed Feiler, a Savannah native now living in New York City, and his fight against cancer when a tumor was found in his leg. Throughout the book, Feiler details how his greatest fear — of losing connection with his family — led to him cavaliering the concept of having a council of dads, or a group of men in his life that could help shepherd his two daughters, Eden and Tybee, through life while also offering a piece of their father along the way.

Feiler survived, conquering cancer, but the concept continued to flourish and while the council wasn’t needed in his absence, it became a part of his family’s life anyway. Following a TED Talk and various other outlets for the idea to breathe, Feiler said it finally landed with NBC and he couldn’t be more thrilled.

“I trust the network. I really trust Joan Rater and Tony Phelan, who are incredibly talented and have skills that I’ll never, never have. And I understand that this story (in the show) is not my story. So I’m infused in it, I wanted my voice to be true,” he said.

“I wanted the tone and the spirit to be captured, which it 1,000% is. But then I also know that this is TV and the characters are going to do things. You know that these dads are not my dads and this family is not my family. So I’m totally comfortable with that. And that’s an advantage that came from there being a decade in between. I realized that I saw so many versions of this over the years where the tone was wrong and the spirit was lost, and the heart was not there. So I can say with complete confidence, that the tone and the spirit and the heart are exactly what I wanted. But then the story is totally fresh.”

Icing on top of the perfect cake with this television series is the fact that NBC was able to bring Feiler’s story to his hometown of Savannah. The entire first season found its home in the Hostess City with stops on Isle of Hope and Tybee Island to create the full picture of the area.

“It’s Savannah as it is now and you’re seeing in the show parts of Savannah, Tybee, Isle of Hope, downtown (and) the southside. You’re seeing parts of Savannah that never get shown,” he said.

“It’s not just historic Savannah pretending to be the 18th century…It is Savannah now and that is just awesome.”

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