NBC Developing Underground Railroad Miniseries and Musical With Stevie Wonder

Stevie Wonder - H 2014
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Stevie Wonder - H 2014

NBC is looking to expand its event programming with another miniseries. Entertainment chairman Robert Greenblatt announced plans for Freedom Run on Friday morning, a limited series about the Underground Railroad.

Not just looking for a TV home for the diversity push, Greenblatt also said that plans for the project included a Broadway musical. The second part is less surprising when you look at who's executive producing the miniseries: Stevie Wonder. Greenblatt added that it was his hope, at this early stage, that Wonder would also score the music for the production. 

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It's a new move for Wonder. The veteran musician has few producing credits under his belt, with all of his previous work in TV being on music specials and televised concerts. As far as the planned musical goes, it would take Greenblatt back to his Broadway roots. The TV exec has been bullish on music during is NBC tenure, airing two seasons of Smash and staging two live TV musicals.

“We’re increasingly looking for projects that qualify as television events and these harrowing true stories of courageous young men and women who found love, in spite of the heinousness of slavery, certainly does that,” said Greenblatt. “Furthermore, the idea of also developing this into a Broadway musical with Stevie Wonder is very exciting as we look to expand the scope of our live stage business. We’re thrilled that these producers wanted to bring this important project to us.”

Based on Betty DeRamus’ book Forbidden Fruit: Love Stories From the Underground Railroad, the miniseries is being planned for eight hours. It tells the story of the underground railroad through a collection of love stories (many of them fact-based) about men and women, slave and free, black and white, fighting or trying to escape slavery. B. Swibel, Adam Westbrook and Charles Randolph-Wright are writing and will serve as executive producers. Tara Smith and Brian LaRoda will also executive produce.

“These unforgettable moments in history, which have never been told on television before, are both incredibly painful and heartwarming and need to be presented to the world,” added NBC Entertainment president Jennifer Salke. “We’re honored to be adapting this emotionally affecting book in a television event.”