Phyllis Montana LeBlanc probably would have chosen a different career path, but the devastation that was Hurricane Katrina helped her find a new life. After the New Orleans resident was featured in the Emmy-winning Spike Lee documentary “When the Levees Broke,” Lee recommended her for a new dramatic TV series shooting in New Orleans in the aftermath of Katrina. That show is “Treme,” now in its third season on HBO. Sadly, though the subject matter of fictional Katrina survivors and how they fared was compelling, “Treme” has been hampered by lackluster ratings. HBO announced that they will conclude the show after a shortened fourth season next year.
LeBlanc is the memorably evocative woman in the original documentary who recounts her experiences post-Katrina with equal parts resignation, humor and defiance. Lee reportedly told her she had something special and “Treme” producers agreed. The author of a book “Not Just the Levees Broke: My Life Before and After Katrina” released in 2008, LeBlanc enjoyed a certain amount of notoriety after the storm, also appearing in Lee’s follow-up documentary “If God Is Willing and Da Creek Don’t Rise” in 2010, and has a small role in the controversial Lee Daniels film, “The Paperboy” released earlier this year. While things have improved in post-Katrina New Orleans (though another hurricane took out power to parts of the city earlier this year), many residents are still struggling with their post-Katrina lives in New Orleans all these years later. LeBlanc is one of the survivors who has emerged as an example of the city’s resilience and recovery.
"I truly believe that home is where the heart is and when you say 'New Orleans,' you might as well say 'my heart,'" LeBlanc told Nola.com when her book was published. "This city is for people who really love it, really want to see it come back. I'm one of those people."
For more information on the “Treme,” clips and full episodes, go to www.hbo.com.