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Hot off Moonlight‘s best picture win at the Oscars, Barry Jenkins has set his next act.
The filmmaker is headed to television to write and direct a limited series based on Colson Whitehead’s award-winning novel The Underground Railroad for Amazon. The hourlong drama, set to premiere in 2019, will be executive produced by Jenkins’ Pastel and Brad Pitt’s Plan B, both of which backed Moonlight. Jenkins will direct all eleven episodes of the series.
In addition to selling over 825,000 copies in the U.S., The Underground Railroad was an Oprah’s Book Club 2016 selection, New York Times No. 1 best-seller and winner of the 2016 National Book Award for fiction. Published by Doubleday, the novel chronicles a young woman’s journey as she makes a desperate bid for freedom in the antebellum South. After escaping her Georgia plantation for the rumored Underground Railroad, she discovers a railroad full of engineers and conductors, along with a secret network of tracks and tunnels beneath the Southern soil.
“Going back to The Intuitionist, Colson’s writing has always defied convention, and The Underground Railroad is no different,” Jenkins said Monday in a statement. “It’s a groundbreaking work that pays respect to our nation’s history while using the form to explore it in a thoughtful and original way. Preserving the sweep and grandeur of a story like this requires bold, innovative thinking and in Amazon we’ve found a partner whose reverence for storytelling and freeness of form is wholly in line with our vision.”
Added Joe Lewis, Amazon Studios’ head of comedy, drama and VR: “Colson Whitehead’s book is a sweeping, character-driven, boundary-destroying epic. Having Barry bring it to life for Amazon Studios is thrilling. We couldn’t be more excited to see what they create.”
The project is the latest in Amazon’s roster of upcoming shows from A-list creators and stars. High-profile series already in the works at the streaming service — which recently won its first-ever Academy Award for Kenneth Lonergan’s Manchester by the Sea — include David O. Russell’s mafia drama starring Julianne Moore and Robert DeNiro, Matthew Weiner’s Mad Men follow-up The Romanoffs and Nicolas Winding Refn’s crime drama Too Old to Die Young.
Jenkins, who recently helmed an episode of Netflix’s upcoming series Dear White People, is also writing a film about Olympic boxing champion Claressa “T-Rex” Shields for Universal. He is repped by Silent R Management and CAA.
Updated on June 5 at 3:15 pm PST: Amazon confirmed that Jenkins will direct all eleven episodes of the limited series and that it will premiere sometime in 2019.
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