HBO develops 'Enlightened' comedy

To be written by Mike White and star Laura Dern

HBO is being "Enlightened" by Laura Dern and Mike White.

The pay cable network is developing a single-camera comedy to be written by the "School of Rock" scribe and star Dern as a formerly self-destructive woman who, after having a spiritual awakening, becomes determined to live an enlightened life, creating havoc at home and work.

"There are so many dysfunctional types of characters populating cable television, and she is equally as dysfunctional as any of them," White said, "but her impulse is to get healthy, to make the world a better place even though it creates havoc."

The project stems from Dern's standout performance as Katherine Harris in the 2008 HBO film "Recount," which earned her a Golden Globe Award and Emmy nomination.

HBO approached the actress about a deal. Dern was intrigued but wanted to commit only if she found the right material.

She turned for advice to White, with whom she had developed a close friendship following her role on his 2007 film "Year of the Dog."

At first, White was OK with just helping her navigate her way into a TV series -- but that quickly changed. "I'm such a huge fan of hers as an actress and a person, I realized I was going to be jealous of anyone doing (a show with her), so I just had to do it myself," he quipped, adding that the combination of Dern, HBO and the network's entertainment president Sue Naegle, who was his agent at UTA, proved irresistible.

White had already been bouncing around an idea for a feature script as a potential starring vehicle for Dern. She also had thoughts about what kind of series she wanted to do.

The two ended up "fine-tuning" their separate ideas in what became the premise of "Enlightened," White said.

White is writing the script for the pilot and hopes to shoot it by the end of the year.

Both White and Dern have comedy series experience. White created and exec produced the Fox comedy "Cracking Up"; Dern appeared in the coming-out episode of "Ellen," for which she earned an Emmy nom. Additionally, White appeared with his dad on CBS' Emmy-winning reality series "The Amazing Race" this season.

White's action-comedy feature spec "Babe in the Woods" was just acquired by Columbia with him attached as a producer. The next release for his Paramount-based Rip Cord Prods. is Fox Searchlight's "Gentlemen Broncos," slated for an October bow.

White is repped by UTA and attorneys Lindsay Strasberg and Robert Offer.

Dern, repped by CAA and Untitled Entertainment, has in the can "Tenderness," a feature in which she co-stars opposite Russell Crowe.
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