9:00am PT by Lesley Goldberg
George R.R. Martin's 'Wild Cards' Moves From Hulu to Peacock
George R.R. Martin's Wild Cards is on the move.
Following two years of development at Disney-owned Hulu, the drama based on the multiple-book series edited by the Game of Thrones creator has moved to NBCUniversal-backed Peacock. A search is underway for a new writer for the project, which remains in the development stage.
Wild Cards was one of the few projects that former Hulu content chief Joel Stillerman bought during the year he was with the streamer. Andrew Miller (The Secret Circle) was previously attached to pen the script and create a multiple-show universe for Hulu, which landed Wild Cards with a rich penalty attached. Hulu had opened a shared writers room for what sources said were two interconnected series, with Miller overseeing both.
Sources say Miller and his team wrote seven episodes of one series and three of another after Stillerman selected the Wild Cards source material he wanted adapted. Both takes, which put marginalized communities front and center, were said to be too dark for Hulu's post-Stillerman regime. Things were further complicated when NBCUniversal — whose Universal Content Productions owns the rights to the series — divested its stake in Hulu.
Miller, whose overall deal with UCP expired last year, is no longer attached and is focusing on other projects for the studio and beyond. Melinda Snodgrass, who co-edited Wild Cards alongside Martin, remains an exec producer.
After Hulu passed last year, UCP quickly began shopping Wild Cards, which counts Martin as an exec producer, to streamers and premium cable networks. UCP owns the rights to Wild Cards with Martin in late 2016 noting plans to adapt the franchise for television. "Development will begin immediately on what we hope will be the first of several interlocking series," Martin wrote at the time on his blog.
It's unclear if Peacock plans to turn Wild Cards into a larger franchise. Sources note that will hinge on the writer who is brought in to adapt the material. Peacock's take focuses on an alien pathogen known as the Wild Card virus that is released over Manhattan in 1946, altering the course of human history. The virus rewrites DNA, mutating its survivors. A lucky few are granted awe-inspiring superpowers, while the sad majority are left with often-repulsive physical deformities.
The Wild Cards franchise is a shared universe of anthologies, mosaic novels and stand-alone stories written by a collection of authors and edited by Martin and Snodgrass. The book series launched after a long-running campaign of the Superworld role-playing game led by Martin and involving the original authors. Martin and Snodgrass developed the framework of the series, including the characters' abilities and card-based terminology. The first book was published by Bantam in 1987. To date, 27 books have been released by four publishers, with other new titles in the works. The source material has been adapted as comics, graphic novels and other RPGs.
Snodgrass was attached a decade ago to pen the screenplay for a Wild Cards feature film as part of a rights deal with Syfy Films (a joint venture between Syfy and Universal Pictures). The feature ultimately stalled before UCP acquired the rights to the property and set its sights on television. Martin's manager, Vince Gerardis (Game of Thrones), continues to exec produce Wild Cards.
Wild Cards is the latest project Martin has worked on with UCP. He previously exec produced Syfy drama Nightflyers, which was based on his novella. Martin continues to remain based at HBO with a rich overall deal and is readying multiple Game of Thrones offshoots, including House of the Dragon, for the WarnerMedia-backed cabler. As part of the Game of Thrones expansion plan, multiple projects — including a live-action take on Martin's novella series Tales of Dunk and Egg and an animated drama for HBO Max — are on the table. Martin is also attached to exec produce a take on Roger Zelazny's Roadmarks for the premium cabler.
In success, Wild Cards could become an all-important franchise property for Peacock. The streaming service continues to bolster its roster of originals with titles including NBC transfer Langdon (based on the Dan Brown character), updates of Bel-Air, Saved by the Bell, Punky Brewster and Battlestar Galactica.
In the streaming era, it's become increasingly common for projects to jump platforms. That Hulu would pass on Wild Cards is hardly a surprise given what's sure to be a big price tag on the series and the fact that the Disney-backed streamer does not own the property and would have to pay a steep licensing fee to UCP for the show.