12:00pm PT by Lesley Goldberg
Jake Gyllenhaal to Explore Jonestown in Cult Anthology Series for A&E
Jake Gyllenhaal is turning to television.
The actor-producer and his Nine Stories Productions is teaming with A&E to develop an anthology that each season explores a different American cult persona as well as the provocative nature of belief.
Season one of the untitled drama will focus on Jim Jones, the leader of the cult Peoples Temple of the Disciples of Christ. The potential series in its freshman season would chronicle Jones' path and the infamous Jonestown commune where in 1978 more than 900 people died in a mass murder/suicide organized by Jones. It ranks as one of the largest single losses of American civilian lives in history.
Gyllenhaal and his Nine Stories partner Riva Marker (Beasts of No Nation) will executive produce the series in association with A&E's studio counterpart A+E Studios (UnREAL, Roots).
"Riva and I founded Nine Stories to push creative limits, and have found a wonderful partner in A&E with this fascinating series," Gyllenhaal said. "Jim Jones is a complex character — one who has found his way into the collective unconscious. We want to focus on the undeniable magnetism of zealots and the danger of that kind of charisma. A notion not only pertinent to cult leaders but to the geopolitical climate of today."
A+E Networks will handle global sales for the series. Gyllenhaal is repped by WME and Bloom Hergott.
The anthology series comes as A&E has been expanding its roster of scripted fare, with flagship Bates Motel being joined by The Omen sequel Damien.
Anthology series — like American Horror Story, True Detective, American Crime and Fargo — have become increasingly popular as broadcast and cable networks look to draw eyeballs and top talent in an increasingly competitive scripted landscape.
Crime dramas continue to be in high demand following the success of such documentary fare as The Jinx, Making a Murderer and scripted series including FX's upcoming American Crime Story, with season one set to explore the O.J. Simpson trial.
The anthology was one of multiple announcements A&E made Wednesday at the Television Critics Association's winter press tour. The cable network also renewed docuseries Born This Way, which explores the lives of young adults born with Down Syndrome, and scheduled Bates Motel's fourth season return for Monday, March 7 at 9 p.m., followed by the series debut of Damien at 10 p.m.