2:08pm PT by Lesley Goldberg
TV Series in the Works Based on Alleged Sex Trafficking Cult Nxivm (Exclusive)
File this under "that didn't take long."
A TV series based on Keith Raniere's alleged cult Nxivm is in the works. Annapurna Television has optioned the rights to reporter Barry Meier's 2017 New York Times exposé "Inside a Secretive Group Where Women Are Branded" that explores the group fronted by Raniere.
A writer for the untitled project has not yet been determined, but Annapurna Television's hope is to adapt the investigative report as a one-hour fictionalized scripted series inspired by actual events. A network is not yet attached.
The potential series, according to Annapurna, follows what happens when women who join what they're told is a secret sisterhood created to empower them find themselves psychologically enthralled and horrifically sexually enslaved to its leader — and their flesh branded with his initials.
Actress Shannon Woodward (Westworld) is attached to executive produce the drama alongside Annapurna's Megan Ellison, Sue Naegle and Susan Goldberg.
The news comes days after former Smallville actress Allison Mack was arrested in connection with a case involving alleged cult leader Raniere (aka "Vanguard") and charged with sex trafficking, sex trafficking conspiracy and forced labor conspiracy, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of New York. Raniere was charged with the same crimes and allegedly created a secret society within Nxivm called "DOS," an acronym representing the Latin phrase that translates to "Lord/Master of the Obedient Female Companions," or "The Vow," authorities said.
Mack was released from federal custody Tuesday on a $5 million bond.
The U.S. Attorney's Office said Raniere, during the past two decades, established a series of purported self-help programs under the name "Nxivm" with hubs in the U.S., Mexico, Canada and South America. Mack and other cult "masters" allegedly recruited slaves by telling them they were joining a "women-only organization that would empower them and eradicate purported weaknesses that the Nxivm curriculum taught were common in women."
Meier in his report spoke with multiple former Nxivm members who detailed their experiences — including branding — as part of the alleged cult that Raniere formed after he transformed himself into a New Age teacher after he and his associates agreed to shut down a suspected pyramid scheme in the mid-1990s.
For its part, Annapurna Television is an independent television studio behind the Fox drama pilot Mixtape and Netflix's upcoming scripted anthology The Ballad of Buster Scruggs from the Coen brothers. Naegle serves as president of the Ellison-led Annapurna Television, helping the small-screen-focused arm of the company behind the features Sausage Party and Everybody Wants Some build a slate for broadcast, cable and digital platforms. Naegle is a former president of HBO Entertainment. The company currently has Hulu's Carrie Brownstein comedy pilot in the works.