The network on Monday ordered When We Rise, an eight-hour miniseries exploring the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community’s civil rights movement, The Hollywood Reporter has learned.
The drama, which is heading into production, is being written by Dustin Lance Black, who won an Oscar for penning the screenplay for the Harvey Milk biopic Milk. The ABC Studios entry will be exec produced by Laurence Mark and Bruce Cohen, the latter of whom produced Milk. Gus Van Sant, who earned an Oscar nomination for directing Milk, will helm the first two-hour episode of the miniseries and also serve as an exec producer.
When We Rise chronicles the personal and political struggles, setbacks and triumphs of a diverse family of LGBT men and women who helped pioneer one of the last legs of the U.S. Civil Rights movement from its turbulent infancy in the 20th century to the once unfathomable successes of today.
Writer-producer Black was raised in a strict Mormon house in Texas and has worked tirelessly for marriage equality and gay rights as his career in Hollywood continued to rise. In addition to Milk, Black’s credits include HBO’s Big Love, features Pedro (about The Real World‘s Pedro Zamora), J. Edgar and 8, the 2011 play re-enacting the closing arguments in the federal trial that led to the overturning of California’s Proposition 8. For its part, the play was sponsored by the American Federation of Equal Rights — where Black is a founding board member. Black also served as a narrator on 8: The Mormon Proposition, which chronicled the Church of Latter-day Saints’ involvement in California’s Prop. 8.
The Stonewall Riots are largely considered to have ignited the gay-rights movement. The Greenwich Village-based gay bar Stonewall Inn was raided by police in June 1969 and ignited riots during which members of the LGBT community called for equal rights.
For ABC, When We Rise comes as the network has earned critical praise (and ratings success) with its push for inclusion and diversity in its programming and casting thanks to series including Black-ish, Fresh Off the Boat and more. The network in March will debut comedy The Real O’Neals, a semi-autobiographical comedy based on the life of gay-rights activist Dan Savage. (Savage organized the It Gets Better photo campaign following the passage of Prop. 8 and other anti-gay legislation.)
For Van Sant, meanwhile, When We Rise becomes his latest TV foray. He’s also teaming with Orange Is the New Black creator Jenji Kohan for an HBO drama and was an exec producer on Starz critical drama Boss. He’s repped by WME.
Black is with CAA and Hansen Jacobson.