6:45am PT by Lesley Goldberg
Beau Willimon Space Drama Picked Up Straight to Series at Hulu
House of Cards creator Beau Willimon is returning to television.
More than a year after he abruptly exited the Netflix drama, Willimon has landed a straight-to-series eight-episode order for space drama The First at rival Hulu.
Announced Wednesday as part of Hulu's NewFronts presentation, The First is set in the near future and explores the first human mission to Mars and interplanetary colonization. Willimon created the drama and will write the script and executive produce alongside producing partner Jordan Tappis. Production will begin this year for a premiere on the streamer in 2018.
"It’s a story about the human spirit,” Willimon said. “About our indomitable need to reach for unknown horizons. About people working toward the greatest pioneering achievement in human history. And about the cost of that vision, the danger and sacrifice — emotional, psychological and physical — that’s required to achieve it. How ordinary, imperfect people band together and overcome a myriad of obstacles to grasp the extraordinary."
Willimon's and Tappis' Westward Productions will own and produce The First. Hulu is co-financing the ambitious drama alongside Channel 4 and IMG, the company WME co-CEOs Ari Emanuel and Patrick Whitesell purchased for $2.4 billion in 2014.
The First comes as Hulu's head of content Craig Erwich told THR he is looking to move the streamer's programming from coverage of the arts and entertainment pages to the culture section in a bid to further compete with deep-pocketed rivals Netflix and Amazon. Landing Willimon, who sources said at the time was exiting House of Cards to focus on writing an original play, is certainly sure to help garner attention to Hulu.
The Oscar, Emmy, Golden Globe and BAFTA Award-nominated Willimon helped put Netflix on the map as a destination for originals with its Media Rights Capital-produced House of Cards, the streaming giant's first scripted series.
For Hulu, The First joins a slate of originals including critical favorite The Handmaid's Tale — renewed for a second season Wednesday — newly ordered Marvel drama Runaways, anthology Castle Rock, 9/11 entry The Looming Tower, Future Man, The Mindy Project, National Treasure, Casual, The Path, Difficult People, Shut Eye and Chance.
Thematically, space has become one of the season's hottest genres with a J.J. Abrams project set up at HBO and multiple pilots in the works this broadcast season joining Fox's straight-to-series Seth MacFarlane entry Orville.
The First was just one part of Hulu's NewFronts announcements; click here for full coverage.
Willimon is repped by CAA.