Kevin Hooks to Direct BET Networks' Nelson Mandela Miniseries (Exclusive)

Mark Levenstein, Kevin Hooks

Canada's Blue Ice Pictures will co-produce 'Madiba' after installing former HBO exec Mark Levenstein as its new CEO.

Kevin Hooks (Prison Break, Passenger 57) is to direct BET Network's six-part miniseries Madiba, based on optioned books by the late Nelson Mandela.

Hooks, currently directing Fox's Backstrom series, will helm the upcoming life story of South Africa's first Black president, from Canadian producer Blue Ice Pictures after it installed former HBO vp production Mark Levenstein as its new CEO, who will be based in Los Angeles.

Madiba is also produced by UK-based Left Bank Pictures and South Africa's Out of Africa Entertainment. Mandela's grandson, Kweku Mandela, will executive produce for Out of Africa.

Casting on Madiba is now underway, with production set for South Africa later this year. "I am humbled by the opportunity to tell the amazing life story of Nelson Mandela. His courage, sacrifice and dedication made him one of the most important and inspirational leaders the world has ever know," Hooks said in a statement on Tuesday.

His hire as director follows BET Networks airing another Canadian miniseries, The Book of Negroes, a slave trade drama from Conquering Lion Pictures, Out of Africa Entertainment and Entertainment One Television, which starred Cuba Gooding Jr., Louis Gossett Jr. and Aunjanue Ellis. Madiba is a similar international co-production given more than two hours to take viewers on a rich dramatic journey.

Levenstein and Lance Samuels, who will executive produce Madiba, in their own statement cited Hooks' experience when explaining their choice for the director's chair. "He (Hooks) is an established, experienced and passionate director who is well-respected across the television community, moreover, his success in feature films offers him a valuable cinematic point of view which lends itself perfectly to such an epic story," they said.

Hooks' other TV credits include Last Resort, 24, Lost, The Good Wife, Person of Interest and Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

The Madiba miniseries is based on two Mandela books, Conversations With Myself and Nelson Mandela by Himself. Blue Ice Pictures, part of the Canadian-based film financier Blue Ice Group, hired Levenstein to develop content for the U.S. and international markets.

Blue Ice, based in Toronto, also has an office in London, and earlier acquired Daniel Iron's Foundry Films to bolster its Canadian division. Steven Silver and Neil Tabatznik's Blue Ice Group also bought Samuel's Out of Africa Entertainment to establish a production base in South Africa.

"Having Mark on the team definitively broadens the scope and strengthens the profile of Blue Ice in the world marketplace at a time when global production is coming into its own," Samuels said.

Madiba is also executive produced by Iron, Tabatznik, Silver, Andy Harries, Marigo Kehoe and Loretha Jones.