5:00am PT by Lesley Goldberg
Read the Letter That Convinced Hayley Atwell to Do ABC's 'Conviction' (Exclusive)
The competition for top talent in the so-called 'Peak TV' era is fierce.
With more than 400 scripted originals currently in the works (and that number likely to grow to 500 in the coming years), broadcast, cable networks and streaming outlets alike are going to great lengths to lure name talent to their projects in a bid to help cut through the cluttered marketplace.
With 80-some-odd pilots all shooting in the same time frame, many actors receive multiple offers all at once — including for straight-to-series Netflix shows as well as off-cycle cable fare — and many networks and producers are going to great lengths to draw stars to their passion projects. Such was the case with ABC's Conviction and leading lady Hayley Atwell.
Conviction tells the story of Hayes Morrison (Atwell), the brilliant but ne'er-do-well daughter of a former president, who is blackmailed into taking a job as the head of Los Angeles' newly created Conviction Integrity Unit. She, along with her team of lawyers, investigators and forensic experts, work together to examine cases where there's credible suspicion that the wrong person may have been convicted of a crime. (The character was originally named Carter, but changed to avoid confusion with Atwell's former Agent Carter character, Peggy Carter.)
"We knew it was likely that Agent Carter was going away and ABC asked if we could see Hayley Atwell as Hayes," showrunner Liz Friedman tells THR. "After I was done doing backflips, I said yes. And ABC asked us to write her a love letter. I said yes, and I'd mean every word of it. I still have the letter."
Read Friedman's courtship letter to Atwell, exclusive to THR, below.
Thank you so much for taking the time to read Conviction, the pilot that Liz Friedlander and I created for ABC. This show is passion project for me, the culmination of everything I’ve written up to now, allowing me to draw on my experience working on House, M.D.,as well as launching Orange Is the New Black and Jessica Jones.
Conviction is set in the world of the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Conviction Review Unit, a group established to look into claims of wrongful incarceration. As the popularity of Serial and Making a Murderer demonstrate, stories of wrongful conviction couldn’t be more in the zeitgeist right now. As you’ll see in the pilot, Conviction offers a way to tell twisty mysteries that defy expectations and explore our society’s increasingly conflicted feelings about law enforcement.
But at its heart, Conviction is much more than a procedural. It’s the story of Carter Morrison. This deeply complicated character is the reason that I truly, madly, deeply love this show.
Carter is a former first daughter, having spent a good part of her childhood in the White House. She’s a brilliant lawyer … and a rebel, a button-pusher, a rule-breaker. She’s kicked ass as a high-profile defense attorney and a professor at the elite Stanford Law ... only to sabotage her success at both places with bad behavior. Carter is uncomfortable with all the privilege afforded her because of her pedigree … not that she won’t use it when it benefits her. Her wit is razor-sharp, her bullshit detector fine-tuned, she is sexy as all get out, but underneath all that she’s lost. Looking for a sense of purpose. Not that she’d ever admit it …
And you simply have to play her.
I am a huge fan of your work and have been ever since Captain America. I love what you’ve done with Peggy on Agent Carter. You are the rare actor with the ability and craft to portray our Carter’s smarts, strength and snark, without losing the vulnerability underneath.
Bottom line: you are the secret sauce that this show needs. Please come breathe life into this woman, so that everyone can fall as in love with Carter as I already have. (Despite my therapist’s warnings to steer clear of her.)
Me, Liz Friedlander and the whole team (Mark Gordon, Nick Pepper and everyone at ABC) are passionate about you playing this part. We’d love to sit down with you and discuss the character and where we see her going from here.
Conviction premieres Monday, Oct. 3 at 10 p.m. on ABC.