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OWN is teaming with an Oscar winner for its next drama series.
The Oprah Winfrey-led cable network has given a straight-to-series order to a new project from Moonlight co-writer Tarell Alvin McCraney, The Hollywood Reporter has learned.
Also executive produced by Michael B. Jordan, the untitled coming-of-age series centers on a 14-year-old prodigy from the projects. Haunted by the death of his closest friend and relied upon by his hardworking mother to find a way out of poverty, he must choose between the streets that raised him or the higher education that may offer him a way out. Set in South Florida at the end of the Obama administration, the lyrical drama is inspired by events in McCraney’s own life and explores the precarious balance needed for the making of a man.
“When Tarell shared his powerful story with us there wasn’t a dry eye in the room,” Winfrey said Wednesday in a statement. “I knew this was something special that our viewers will without a doubt connect to and feel compelled to explore with us. I am honored to be working with Tarell and the rest of the producers on this project.”
This will mark McCraney’s first foray into television following his Academy Award win — along with Barry Jenkins — for best adapted screenplay for Moonlight. “I wanted to explore the pivotal steps toward adulthood and identity, the ones we take when we think or feel we have no other choice,” McCraney said.
In addition to creating and writing the project, he will exec produce with Jordan and Revenge duo Mike Kelley and Melissa Loy. Warner Horizon Scripted Television will produce in association with Jordan’s Outlier Productions and Kelley and Loy’s Page Fright banner.
“Being young, gifted and black in America today — and anywhere for that matter — makes it extremely hard and challenging to follow your dreams and achieve success,” said Jordan. “Tarell’s adaptation of this reality was so honest and true and it’s the exact message our youth needs today.”
Added Kelley and Loy: “From the moment Tarell began discussing his profoundly moving story with us, we knew we needed to find a courageous home to nurture his extraordinary vision. No one is better equipped to do that than Oprah Winfrey and her talented team.”
The untitled project joins OWN’s growing original drama slate as the Discovery-owned cabler prepares to part ways with prolific producer Tyler Perry in 2019 when he moves to Viacom for his rich overall deal. As part of that deal, Perry will produce 90 episodes of scripted television for BET and other Viacom networks.
OWN began expanding beyond Perry’s rich portfolio of originals (which include The Haves and the Have Nots and If Loving You Is Wrong) with the successful launches of Greenleaf and Queen Sugar in 2016. Both have recently been renewed for their third seasons, with the latter renewal coming hand-in-hand with a new development deal for creator Ava DuVernay at Winfrey’s Harpo Films.
In recent weeks, OWN has also teamed with Will Packer to develop scripted and unscripted series for the network. In July, the channel also ordered a light hourlong drama titled Love Is __ from Mara Brock Akil and Salim Akil. Love Is __, Queen Sugar and the McCraney project all hail from Warner Horizon.
McCraney is repped by CAA, MANAGE-MENT and Gang Tyre. Jordan, whose screen credits include Fruitvale Station, Creed, Friday Night Lights and The Wire, is with WME and Bloom Hergott. Kelley and Loy, whose other series include critical darling Swingtown, are both repped by CAA and Sloane Offer.
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