12:30pm PT by Lesley Goldberg
J.J. Abrams Reteams With Tavis Smiley for TV Series Based on Michael Jackson's Last Days
J.J. Abrams is going from Star Trek and Roadies to explore Michael Jackson's last days.
The prolific producer is teaming with Tavis Smiley and Warner Bros. Television to adapt the author/broadcaster's upcoming book, Before You Judge Me: The Triumph and Tragedy of Michael Jackson's Last Days, as TV event series. A network has not yet been set up; the studio is expected to shop it to broadcast, cable, premium cable and streaming services.
Smiley's book, which will be released Tuesday by Little Brown and Co., is described as a taut novelistic rendering of the final months in the pop superstar's life. The book examines Jackson's highs and lows — including his constant hunt for privacy in a life that was more public than almost any other and the pressures he endured as someone whose fame made him socially fragile and almost unable to live.
Smiley, Abrams, Ben Stephenson and David Brewington will executive produce Before You Judge Me, which will hails from Abrams' Bad Robot Productions and Tavis Smiley TV & Film.
The project stems from overall deals Smiley and Abrams have with Warner Bros. Television. Before You Judge Me is the latest deal for Bad Robot with Smiley and WBTV. In April 2015, Abrams and Smiley teamed with the studio to develop another event series based on the author's best-seller Death of a King: The Real Story of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Final Year.
News that Smiley would be adapting his Jackson book was first announced in October when he signed a pod deal with WBTV. He's also developing My Journey With Maya, a recent memoir of the author's nearly 30-year friendship with renowned poet Maya Angelou, for the studio.
Before You Judge Me, Death of a King and My Journey With Maya are all written by Smiley and David Ritz. Smiley, who also hosts The Tavis Smiley Show radio program, has written 19 books, including his own best-selling memoir, What I Know for Sure: My Story of Growing Up in America.
For Abrams, the Jackson series marks his latest TV venture. He next has Showtime's Cameron Crowe music drama Roadies and HBO's Westworld, both due this year, and is wrapping CBS' Person of Interest. Abrams is repped by CAA.