Gay Rights Mini 'When We Rise' Adds Dee Rees, Thomas Schlamme (Exclusive)

They'll each direct two hours of the eight-hour ABC series from Dustin Lance Black and Gus Van Sant.
Frazer Harrison/Getty Images; Carlo Allegri/Getty Images
Dee Rees and Tommy Schlamme

ABC's upcoming gay-rights miniseries When We Rise is rounding out its impressive list of directors.

Dee Rees and Thomas Schlamme have signed on to the drama from Dustin Lance Black and Gus Van Sant.

When We Rise chronicles the personal and political struggles, setbacks and triumphs of a diverse family of LGBT men and women who helped pioneer one of the last legs of the U.S. civil rights movement, from its turbulent infancy in the 20th century to the once-unfathomable successes of today.

Rees (Bessie, Pariah) and Schlamme (The West Wing, Manhattan) will each direct two hours of the eight-part miniseries. Van Sant is helming part one (hours one and two); Rees is set for parts two and three (hours three and four); Schlamme for parts four and five (hours five and six); and Black for parts six and seven (hours seven and eight).

"At its core, When We Rise is about family, diversity and equality, and we are pleased this is reflected behind the camera as well," Black told The Hollywood Reporter. "I'm incredibly grateful to share this experience with Gus, Dee and Tommy."

Guy Pearce stars as LGBT activist Cleve Jones; Mary-Louise Parker is set as women's rights leader Roma Guy; Rachel Griffiths is Roma's wife, activist Diane; Austin McKenzie is the young Cleve; Emily Skeggs is the young Roma; Jonathan Mauors is the young Ken Jones; and Fiona Dourif is the younger Diane. Dylan Walsh recurs as Dr. Marcus Conant and Kevin McHale is set as AIDS activist Bobbi Campbell. Empire's Rafael de la Fuente is set as Ricardo, Cleve's partner.

The drama was written and created by Black, who won an Academy Award for penning the screenplay for the Harvey Milk biopic Milk. The ABC Studios entry will be executive produced by Laurence Mark and Bruce Cohen, the latter of whom produced Milk. Van Sant, who earned an Oscar nomination for directing Milk, also serves as an exec producer on the mini, which was first announced in July 2013.

Schlamme is repped by CAA; Rees is with WME.

A premiere date for When We Rise has not been determined.

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