'Pachinko' TV Series in the Works at Apple (Exclusive)

Writer and showrunner Soo Hugh has also inked a two-year deal with studio Media Res as part of the pact for the series.
John Sciulli/Getty Images for AMC; Courtesy of Grand Central Publishing
Soo Hugh

As Crazy Rich Asians is preparing for its historic box-office opening, Apple is taking a big swing with an international drama series featuring its own largely Asian cast.

Following a multiple-outlet bidding war, the tech giant has landed rights to develop the project based on Min Jin Lee's best-selling novel Pachinko. Sources tell The Hollywood Reporter that the drama landed at Apple with a sizable script-to-series commitment. 

Pachinko, one of The New York Times' 10 best books of 2017 and a finalist for the National Book Award for fiction, chronicles the hopes and dreams of four generations of a Korean immigrant family. Described as epic in scope, the story begins with a forbidden romance and crescendos into a sweeping saga that journeys between Korea, Japan and America. The Apple drama, which comes with what is said to be a sizable premium show budget akin to Netflix's The Crown, will be told in three languages: Korean, Japanese and English.

Soo Hugh (who oversaw on season one of AMC's The Terror) will pen the script for Apple as well as executive produce and serve as showrunner on the likely series. Pachinko hails from Michael Ellenberg's Media Res, which is behind Apple's upcoming Reese Witherspoon-Jennifer Aniston morning show drama and was the tech giant's entry into the scripted space. Author Lee will also be credited as an executive producer on the Apple take.

In addition to the Pachinko project, Hugh has inked an overall deal with Media Res — the studio's first such pact in television. Under the two-year pact, Hugh will also develop and produce additional projects for the studio. Sources say Hugh — one of only a few Korean-American female showrunners in television — had a personal connection to Pachinko at a time when multiple outlets, including Media Res, were pursuing the title. The company then inked her to an overall deal. Sources say five networks bid on the TV rights to the best-seller. Hugh, repped by WME and McKuin Frankel, also counts The Killing and creating ABC's The Whispers among her credits.

Hugh's is the latest deal for Media Res, which continues to bulk up as a TV studio after recently inking a script deal with Sorry to Bother You scribe Boots Riley.

Pachinko arrives as Crazy Rich Asians opens wide this weekend. The feature film, based on Kevin Kwan's 2013 best-seller of the same name, is the first Asian-American-focused studio movie in 25 years. In success, Crazy Rich Asians has the potential to open the door for more culturally specific stories and reshape Hollywood. Pachinko, which will have an almost all-Asian cast as well, is tonally different from Crazy Rich Asians and is the more critically acclaimed of the two books. 

"History is the record of human imagination, will and decisions. I cannot imagine a greater team than the women and men of Apple, Media Res, William Morris Entertainment and the brilliant showrunner, Soo Hugh, to translate Pachinko, a novel of history, into a visual story for a global audience," Lee told The Hollywood Reporter. "I am honored by their faith and feel confident of their powerful and ground-breaking vision in making history anew.”

For Apple, meanwhile, Pachinko joins a slate of high-profile scripted programming from producers including J.J. Abrams; Damien Chazelle; Witherspoon; Steven Spielberg; Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon; Ron Moore; and M. Night Shyamalan, among others.

Lee, who is Korean-American, is also repped by WME.

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