9:00am PT by Lesley Goldberg
Julia Roberts, Sean Penn, Armie Hammer, Joel Edgerton to Star in Watergate TV Series
Universal Content Productions has assembled an all-star cast to bring the Slate podcast Slow Burn to life as a TV series.
Julia Roberts, Sean Penn, Armie Hammer and Joel Edgerton are attached to star in Gaslit, a modern take on Watergate that will focus on the untold stories and forgotten characters of the scandal. The project, which will hails from Mr. Robot duo Sam Esmail and Robbie Pickering, will explore Richard Nixon's bumbling, opportunistic subordinates to the deranged zealots aiding and abetting their crimes and the tragic whistle-blowers who would eventually bring the whole rotten enterprise crashing down. A network is not yet attached. The drama will be shopped to premium cable networks and streaming services by the NBCUniversal-backed cable- and streaming-focused studio. This is the second Slow Burn TV adaptation, as Epix recently launched a six-hour docuseries.
Pickering (Natural Selection) will serve as showrunner and executive produce alongside Esmail and Chad Hamilton's Esmail Corp banner. Esmail has a sizable overall deal with UCP, which is a division of NBCUniversal Content Studios. Esmail Corp's Chad Hamilton will also exec produce. Star Roberts, who reunites with Esmail following season one of Amazon's UCP-produced Homecoming, will also exec produce via her Red Om Films shingle along with co-EP Lisa Gillan and Marisa Yeres Gill. Anonymous Content and Slate's Gabriel Roth and Josh Levin will also executive produce. Leon Neyfakh, who created the podcast, is attached as a consultant. Joel Edgerton and his brother, Nash Edgerton (Mr. Inbetween), will direct and exec produce the series.
"We are so excited to announce our next collaboration with Sam as we prepare to bring Gaslit to market,” UCP president Dawn Olmstead said Friday in a statement. "Sam and Esmail Corp have introduced the world to some of the most talented creatives in front of and behind the camera, and this project with Robbie at the helm is the next in the lineage of outstanding series from this team. We are also thrilled to be partnering with Julia once again and welcome Sean, Armie, Joel and Nash to UCP."
Gaslit is the latest project in the works at UCP for Esmail. It joins USA Network's Mr. Robot (which wrapped its run last year) and Briarpatch; Amazon's Homecoming; Peacock's new take on Battlestar Galactica; and the limited series Angelyne (based on The Hollywood Reporter feature). UCP and Esmail are also in development on the drama Metropolis and the scripted podcast The End Up, via UCP Audio (which will launch later this year).
"Now more than ever, truth is absolutely stranger than fiction,” Esmail said. "When Robbie first told me about the Slow Burn podcast, I devoured it instantly. The second I finished it, I felt compelled to bring this story to television especially after watching the cowardice on display during the recent impeachment hearings. To help realize this important chapter in our country's history, my first call was to the brilliant Julia Roberts. After her captivating performance in Homecoming, I knew Julia was the only person who could tackle the complex role of Martha Mitchell and lead our stellar cast in adapting this bizarre and controversial narrative.”
Roberts will star as Mitchell. A big personality with an even bigger mouth, she is a celebrity Arkansan socialite and wife to John Mitchell, Nixon’s loyal attorney general. Despite her party affiliation, she’s the first person to publicly sound the alarm on Nixon’s involvement in Watergate, causing both the presidency and her personal life to unravel.
Penn, who previously starred on Hulu's space drama The First, will play John Mitchell. As attorney general, he is Nixon’s most trusted adviser and best friend. Temperamental, foulmouthed and ruthless — yet hopelessly in love with his famously outspoken wife — he'll be forced to choose between her and the president.
Hammer (Call Me by Your Name, The Social Network) will play John Dean. A hotshot upstart, Dean is the young White House counsel torn between his ambition and his struggle with whether he can lie to protect the president.
Joel Edgerton will portray G. Gordon Liddy. A Korean War veteran and former FBI agent, Liddy is chief operative of Nixon's "Plumbers" unit, tasked with plugging embarrassing leaks in the wake of the Pentagon Papers. He's the living embodiment of Machiavelli's "the ends justify the means," with the physique of an Olympian, the ideological zeal of a fanatic and the thick, bold mustache of a patriot.
Roberts is repped by CAA and Hirsch Wallerstein. Penn is with CAA and Hirsch Wallerstein. Hammer is repped by WME, Relevant and Sloane Offer. Joel Edgerton is with CAA, Anonymous Content and Hirsch Wallerstein. Nash Edgerton is repped by ICM Partners and Hirsch Wallerstein. Slate is repped by WME.