The Oscar-nominated American Hustle director has decided to leave his ABC drama, ordered straight to series in January, after the development phase. The Hollywood Reporter has learned that the project, with a new working title The Club, is still moving forward with story co-writer Susannah Grant.
Grant, who wrote Erin Brockovich, penned the script. She will remain executive producer alongside Carl Beverly and Sarah Timberman (Justified, Masters of Sex, Elementary, Unforgettable).
A CBS Television Studios and ABC Studios co-production, it was to have been Russell’s first TV project. Nabbing Russell was a coup for ABC, as his last three films — The Fighter, Silver Linings Playbook, American Hustle — have been big draws on both the box-office and the awards circuit.
Russell implied he might not have been long for the project when he sat down with THR‘s Stephen Galloway at a Loyola Marymount University Q&A over the weekend.
“I’m not really transitioning right now to TV projects,” he said. “I don’t know if that thing’s going to work out. Matt Weiner, the creator of Mad Men, just gave me a crash course on this: [He said], ‘You know, if you’re really going to make a show that’s like a movie, you’ve got to give yourself to it.’ Matt Weiner gave his life to Mad Men, Vince Gilligan gave his life to Breaking Bad. That’s going to be it. Otherwise it ain’t going to be your art or your vision. I was in delusion that I could do both. It was an illusion. I woke up and said, ‘What am I going to do, stop making feature films? Are you crazy?’ This is the height of my work right now. I’m not going to stop that.”
Russell was one of 20 Oscar nominees producing pilots this season. The Butler‘s Lee Daniels is reteaming with Danny Strong for Fox’s hip-hop drama Empire, while 12 Years a Slave‘s John Ridley has American Crime in the works at ABC, among others.
His departure does not mark the end for The Club, though. The soap, described as an American upstairs/downstairs set at private country club, is currently casting. Machete Kills actress Callie Hernandez is among the first to join the series as Ana. An employee at the club, she is is secretly stealing and pawning off nice items from her workplace.
The Club is ABC’s latest big order, following Secrets & Lies — which received a 10-episode commitment back in October. Broadcast networks have become increasingly fond of larger commitments to lure high-profile talent, like Russell, shifting the traditional broadcast calendar to the year-round model more familiar on cable.
Russell is repped by CAA and Gang Tyre.