Shonda Rhimes, Dee Rees Team for FX Drama Based on 'The Warmth of Other Suns'

The limited series is based on Isabel Wilkerson's historical study.
AP Images/Invision; Courtesy of Vintage; AP Images/Invision

Shonda Rhimes and Betsy Beers' Shondaland banner is heading to cable.

The prolific producers behind ABC's Grey's Anatomy, Scandal and How to Get Away With Murder are teaming with Pariah writer/director Dee Rees to adapt Isabel Wilkerson's The Warmth of Other Suns as a limited series for FX, The Hollywood Reporter has learned.

The historical study, published in 2010, chronicles the decades-long migration of black citizens who fled the South for northern and western cities, in search of a better life. From 1915 to 1970, the exodus of almost 6 million people changed the face of America.  

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Wilkerson — who in 1994 became the first African-American woman to win the Pulitzer Prize in journalism for her coverage of the 1993 Midwestern floods — tells the story through the lives of Ida Mae Gladney, who in 1937 left Mississippi for Chicago; George Starling, who in 1945 fled Florida for Harlem; and Dr. Robert Pershing Foster, who left Louisiana for Los Angeles in 1953. 

Wilkerson gave up her post as Chicago Bureau Chief at The New York Times to pen the 622-page historical study, which took her 15 years. The book, which takes its title from a Richard Wright poem, received the National Book Award for Nonfiction and was a NYT best-seller — it was one of the paper's best books of 2010 and earned several other accolades.

Rees — whose 2011 feature Pariah earned praise on the festival circuit, including an Indie Spirit Award — will write the script and adapt Wilkerson's book. Rees next writes and directs HBO's Bessie Smith biopic Bessie, starring Queen Latifah, set to bow May 16.

Rhimes and Beers will executive produce through their ABC Studios-based Shondaland banner. The drama, which is in development, is a co-production between FX Productions and ABC Studios' cable-focused arm ABC Signature

The Warmth of Other Suns marks Shondaland's first foray into cable programming after producing ABC's TGIT hits Grey's, which is inching toward its 12th season, Scandal (heading into its expected fifth season) and freshman hit How to Get Away With Murder.

The banner will also likely score a fourth show for the 2015-16 broadcast season with its Rhimes- and Beers-produced The Catch, from writer Jennifer Schur and starring The Killing's Mireille Enos, one of ABC's buzziest drama pilots.

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For FX, The Warmth of Other Suns comes as slave dramas continue to be in high demand. History, A&E and Lifetime will take on one of TV's most successful miniseries with a Roots remake due in 2016, while WGN America handed out a straight-to-series order for slave drama Underground. Not to be outdone, NBC is teaming with Stevie Wonder for an underground railroad miniseries and musical called Freedom Run.

This also marks the second high-profile project for ABC Signature, which is teaming with Shondaland star Kerry Washington (Scandal) for HBO's Confirmation, a TV movie about the Clarence Thomas Supreme Court nomination hearings where Anita Hill testified. Washington will star as Hill and exec produce the telepic.

Rees is repped by WME, Mosaic and Frankfurt Kurnit; Rhimes is with ICM Partners and Gendler & Kelly; Beers is with UTA; Wilkerson is with ICM Partners.

Email: Lesley.Goldberg@THR.com
Twitter: @Snoodit

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