Lena Horne Limited Series in the Works at Showtime

The actress and singer's granddaughter, Jenny Lumet, is writing and executive producing.
Carl Van Vechten/Courtesy of Jenny Lumet; Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images
Lena Horne, Jenny Lumet

Showtime is developing a limited series about singer, actress and activist Lena Horne — with her granddaughter, Jenny Lumet, telling the story.

Lumet (Rachel Getting Married, Star Trek: Discovery) will write and executive produce Blackbird: Lena Horne and America, which will span 60 years of Horne's life, beginning in her teenage years as a Cotton Club dancer.

"Bringing my grandmother's story to the screen required a multi-generational effort,” said Lumet. “Grandma passed her stories to my mother, who now passes them to me, so I may pass them to the children of our family. Lena's story is so intimate and at the same time, it's the story of America — America at its most honest, most musical, most tragic and most joyous. It's crucial now. Especially now. She was the love of my life."

The potential series takes its title from Horne's favorite poem, Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird by Wallace Stevens. Blackbird will trace Horne's life from dancing at the Cotton Club at age 16, through World War II and stardom of the MGM years, McCarthyism, the civil rights movement and her triumphant return to Broadway.

The series will also touch on her deepest relationships, including those with Paul Robeson, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Joe Louis, Billie Holiday, Hattie McDaniel, Ava Gardner and Orson Welles, to name a few. A direct descendant of slaves and their enslavers, Horne had to navigate stardom during Jim Crow. She laid herself down and made herself a bridge for everyone who came after her, and finally achieved her own liberation to become one of America's greatest legends.

Lumet and Alex Kurtzman — who are also collaborating on CBS' Silence of the Lambs sequel Clarice — will write the first few episodes together. Both will executive produce along with Heather Kadin of Kurtzman's Secret Hideout, which produces with CBS Television Studios.

Secret Hideout also has The Comey Rule miniseries and a series based on Michael Chabon's The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, with Chabon and Ayelet Waldman adapting, at Showtime.