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Lena Waithe is changing her TV home.
The Master of None Emmy winner has moved her overall deal from Amazon to Warner Bros. Television Group. As part of the multiple-year deal, Waithe and her Hillman Grad Productions banner are developing a scripted adaptation of the landmark documentary Hoop Dreams.
Waithe had been based at Amazon since 2019, when she inked a first-look pact with the retail giant/streamer. The lone series Waithe got on the air at Amazon was horror anthology Them, which was picked up with a two-season order that predated the deal and arrived while she was still housed at Showtime. (Waithe exec produced The Chi for the premium cable network.)
As part of the move to WBTV, where Waithe will develop and produce new TV fare for the company’s various platforms as well as outside buyers, Hillman Grad is expanding and has hired Naomi Funabashi to run film and TV for the company alongside Rishi Rajani.
As for Hoop Dreams, the scripted adaptation marks Waithe’s first project under her freshly signed WBTV pact. From director Steve James and producers Peter Gilbert and Frederick Marx, the 1994 doc followed two Black high school kids in Chicago as they followed their dreams of becoming pro basketball players.
Waithe’s take, which is in development and does not yet have a network attached, is described as a coming-of-age drama following two Black teens in 1990s Chicago who experience the highs and lows of being high school phenoms at the height of the Michael Jordan era and a time when pre-college students turned pro. Aaron Rahsaan Thomas, who serves as showrunner on CBS’ SWAT and counts Friday Night Lights, The Get Down and 30 for 30: Trojan War among his credits, will pen the script and exec produce Hoop Dreams. Waithe and her Hillman Grad partner Rajani will exec produce alongside Playground Entertainment’s Scott Huff, David A. Stern and Colin Callender, and the doc’s James, Gilbert and Marx.
“We are excited to work with Hillman Grad, Playground and Warner Bros. Television on adapting HOOP DREAMS into a scripted television series,” James, Gilbert and Marx said in a joint statement Monday. “There’s been quite a bit of interest over the years since the film came out in 1994, but Lena Waithe is the ideal Chicagoan to lead the effort to finally make it happen.”
Waithe and her Hillman Grad banner also exec produce Showtime’s The Chi, BET’s Twenties and Amazon’s Them as well as the upcoming series Birth of Cool and Twenties the After Show for BET+. The company also recently expanded with a record label set at Def Jam Recordings and a publishing deal with Zando, where Hillman Grad will acquire and publish four to six books over a three-year period. On the film side, Hillman Grad has The Forty-Year-Old Version, Queen & Silm, A Thousand and One, Chang Can Dunk and a Sammy Davis Jr. biopic, among other projects.
“We are thrilled to be joining the WBTVG family and incredibly grateful to Channing [Dungey], Clancy [Collins White] and the rest of the team for believing in us and supporting our mission to give underrepresented artists a platform,” Waithe and Rajani said in a joint statement. “To have our first project together be an adaptation of the seminal documentary Hoop Dreams is a testament to the ambition of our partnership. Hoop Dreams was more than just a documentary, it was a groundbreaking window into a community that was rarely ever seen. It provided a deeply intimate look at two families with hopes of capturing the American dream. Our goal is to continue telling that story with our collaborators at Playground Entertainment and Aaron Rahsaan Thomas as our showrunner. We look forward to bringing the legacy of Hoop Dreams back to the screen.”
Waithe is repped by WME, Blue Marble Management and Del Shaw.
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