Idris Elba, John Ridley Team for 1970s Civil Rights Drama at Showtime

Elba will co-star in 'Guerrilla,' a six-episode limited series from Fifty Fathoms and ABC Signature.
Courtesy of SHOWTIME
John Ridley, left, and Idris Elba

John Ridley and Idris Elba are teaming for a political activism drama at Showtime.

Called Guerrilla, the six-episode limited series will co-star Elba and be written, directed and executive produced by Ridley, The Hollywood Reporter has learned.

Guerrilla is described as a love story set against the backdrop of one of the most politically explosive times in U.K. history. It centers on a politically active couple whose relationship and values are tested when they liberate a political prisoner and form a radical underground cell in 1970s London. Their ultimate target becomes the Black Power Desk, a true-life, secretive counter-intelligence unit within Special Branch dedicated to crushing all forms of black activism. (The couple have not yet been cast.)

Ridley will write the majority of the episodes and direct the first two installments. Elba, whose role is being kept under wraps, will executive produce via his Green Door Pictures banner alongside Ridley, Fifty Fathoms' Patrick Spence and Katie Swinden, ABC Signature's Tracy Underwood and Ridley's ABC Studios-based Stearns Castle topper Michael McDonald. The project, which will begin production in London late this summer, is a co-production between U.K.-based Fifty Fathoms (Fortitude) and ABC Studios' cable-focused arm, ABC Signature. The drama will air on both Showtime and Sky Atlantic in the U.K.

"It's been a long time desire of mine to collaborate with Mr. Ridley and his work here is nothing short of a masterclass in character building and story-telling. TV is in for a treat," said Elba.

Added Ridley: "I am both humbled by and impressed with Idris' passion toward bringing this story to life. I share his commitment for populating the culture with driven and complicated people of color, and believe we have great partners on the producorial level, and with our broadcasters Sky Atlantic and Showtime."

For Ridley, Guerrilla comes as the Oscar winner (12 Years a Slave) awaits a decision on the future of his ABC anthology American Crime, which continues to explore social issues including racism. He's currently in production on ABC drama pilot Presence, about an unlicensed private investigator exploring the cross-section of Los Angeles. Additionally, Ridley is attached to a top-secret Marvel drama described only as a reinvention of an existing superhero character. He is repped by CAA, Brillstein Entertainment and Rohner Walerstein.



Elba, meanwhile, is a Golden Globe and SAG winner best known for The Wire, Luther and, more recently, The Jungle Book. Guerrilla brings him back to Showtime following roles including The Big C. His credits include Beasts of No Nation, Zootopia and the upcoming Star Trek Beyond and The Dark Tower. The Showtime drama marks his latest TV project. Elba also is attached to a long-gestating reboot of Luther and drama The Crusaders — both at Fox. He is repped by WME, Headshell Management and Hertz Lichtenstein.

For Showtime, Guerrilla puts the premium cable network into the larger critical conversation about racial dramas that has recently included Ridley's American Crime as well as FX anthology American Crime Story, with the first season focusing on the O.J. Simpson trial. Fox also is exploring the subject with drama Shots Fired, starring Sanaa Lathan, while A&E is poised to explore the L.A. Riots in The Infamous.

"We’re excited to partner with our friends at Sky to bring a fascinating and unexplored story spearheaded by John and Idris, two major creative talents at the top of their game,” said Showtime president and CEO David Nevins. "Guerilla will surely keep our audience at their edge of their seats."

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