Jada Pinkett Smith to Play D.A. in ABC Racial Drama Produced by A+E Studios

'Murder Town' will be penned by Barry Schindel and marks A+E Studios' first outside sale.
Courtesy of Don Flood; Inset: Courtesy of A+E Studios
Jada Pinkett Smith and Barry Schindel (inset)

Jada Pinkett Smith is plotting a return to the small screen.

Months after completing her one-season run on Fox's Gotham, the actress will star in and exec produce drama Murder Town for ABC.

The drama, which has received a hefty put-pilot commitment, is produced by A+E Studios and will star Pinkett Smith as a beautiful and complicated prosecutor who makes history as Wilmington, Delaware’s, first African-American district attorney. There, she finds herself confronted by old loyalties and loves as well as a shocking revelation about her murdered husband and a polarizing, racially charged case that threatens to burn her and her city to the ground. 

Murder Town will be written by Barry Schindel (IntelligenceCastle) and is based on an original script by Rob Fresco (Crossing Jordan, HeroesTouch, How to Get Away With Murder). Pinkett Smith, Schindel and Miguel Melendez will exec produce Murder Town, which also hails from Will Smith and Pinkett Smith's Overbrook Entertainment in association with A+E Studios. The drama marks the latter's first project for a network outside of A+E Networks' (UnREAL, Roots) family.

"Our networks are clearly our first priority. But if a pilot does not get picked up to series by, say, Lifetime, we as a studio will do everything we can to support that pilot going to the marketplace," A+E Studios chief Bob DeBietto told THR in a March 2014 interview of selling outside his network group. "We can simply run with it, or take a more passive position if there's a third party that actually wants to pursue the project."

Pinkett Smith and Overbrook are represented by Paradigm and attorney Jason Sloan, while Schindel is with CAA and attorney Tom Hoberman.

The deal reunites A+E Studios exec vp Barry Jossen with ABC, where he previously served as head of the Disney-owned network's studio counterpart ABC Studios. Jossen joined the company in February 2014 and oversees scripted fare for A+E Networks' in-house production arm.

The outside sale comes as broadcast and cable networks alike have made it a priority to own their content as vertical integration continues to play a major role behind the scenes.

For her part, Pinkett Smith told THR after the Gotham season finale that she'd be open to returning to the small screen. "[I'd] be down to [find] a character who makes me want to go to work everyday, but I'd absolutely do more television. I love the pace of television. TV is so different from movies because of the pace. I think that people who survive doing TV can survive anything."

ABC, meanwhile, continues to find success by exploring race. The network's anthology American Crime earned star Regina King an Emmy win as the series was also nominated for outstanding miniseries. Comedy Black-ish, meanwhile, continues to be a critical favorite in season two.

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