AMC plans Mars mission

Hensleigh aboard for series based on sci-fi novel

There might be a green light in the red planet's future.

AMC is looking to outer space as it beefs up its slate, developing a series project with writer/executive producer Jonathan Hensleigh based on the sci-fi novel "Red Mars."

"Mars," a 1992 novel by Kim Stanley Robinson, chronicles the inhabitants of the first human colony on the planet. Hensleigh ("Armageddon") is the writer and will executive produce alongside Michael Jaffe and Howard Braunstein of Jaffe Braunstein Entertainment ("The Memory Keeper's Daughter") and Vince Gerardis, Ralph Vicinanza and Eli Kirschner of Created By ("Jumper").

"This fits in with our bigger vision of wanting series that feel like cinematic one-hour movies," said Christina Wayne, senior vp original series and miniseries at AMC. "We're always looking for big genres but to do them in slightly different ways so they feel fresh and new," she added, noting as examples the network's Western mini "Broken Trail" and crime-themed series "Breaking Bad."

Jeremy Elice, vp original programming series, added that the project will be character-driven. "It's not the spectacle of sci-fi that you typically see," he said.

AMC is no stranger to the sci-fi arena: The network also is prepping a miniseries remake of the 1960s sci-fi series "The Prisoner," starring Jim Caviezel and Ian McKellen. But "Prisoner," Wayne said, is "not strictly sci-fi" and instead "runs the gamut" from psychological thriller to sci-fi to drama.

The "Mars" news comes on the heels of AMC announcing two other projects in development: "Ice," about a family in New York's diamond district, and "Carter Beats the Devil," based on Glen David Gold's book about magician Charles Carter and his role in President Harding's death. Wayne said AMC also is close to a deal to develop a third novel as a series project.

"This is definitely a shift for us in terms of where we're getting our material from," Wayne said. "In fiction and nonfiction, there's a great wealth of material for us to cull from."

Execs are hoping to shoot one pilot from the projects on AMC's development slate by year's end.

AMC had a strong showing at last month's Primetime Emmy Awards with its first two original drama series: "Mad Men," which became the first basic cable series to win best drama and also won in the drama writing category, and "Breaking Bad," which earned Bryan Cranston a lead actor trophy.

Next up for AMC is "Bad's" second-season premiere in the first quarter, followed by the summer debut of "Prisoner," the network's second original miniseries after "Trail."