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Spike TV is stepping up to the scripted plate in a big way.
The Viacom-owned cable network has landed The Weinstein Co.’s Waco miniseries about cult leader David Koresh and The Branch Davidians, The Hollywood Reporter has learned. Waco landed at Spike in a competitive situation, with six other bidders. Ultimately, sources say, it was Spike’s blind commitment to the project and its marketing strategy (as well as its high bid) that landed the network the mini.
Friday Night Lights grad Taylor Kitsch will star as Koresh in Waco, while Michael Shannon (Boardwalk Empire) is set as lead FBI negotiator Gary Noesner. Ludacris is being eyed to portray Branch Davidian member Wayne Martin.
The six-part event series will go into production in spring 2017. A premiere date has not been determined.
The limited TV series will be based on the harrowing true story of the 1993 FBI siege of the religious sect in Waco that resulted in a deadly shootout and fire. The 51-day standoff ended with an FBI assault on the compound, which was burned down and ultimately killed 76 people inside — including Koresh.
The project is based on two biographies: A Place Called Waco, by Branch Davidian David Thibodeau — who was one of the nine survivors of the April 19, 1993, fire; and Stalling for Time: My Life as an FBI Hostage Negotiator, penned by FBI special agent in charge of negotiations Noesner.
Spike notes that Waco will “change the way the dramatic siege will be viewed.” The series illustrates the untold story exploring the true life details leading up to and chronicling the 51-day siege between the FBI, AFT and Koresh’s spiritual sect. It will be told from the perspectives of those intimately involved from both sides of the conflict, including surviving Branch Davidians, which has never been shared on television before.
Brothers John Erick Dowdle and Drew Dowdle (No Escape) will pen the series after spending more than three years researching the story and recruiting Kitsch and Shannon. John Erick Dowdle will direct the project, with both on board to exec produce alongside Shannon and Kitsch. The Weinstein Co. announced the project in August, with the company’s co-chairmen Harvey Weinstein and Bob Weinstein as well as president and COO David Glasser, co-head of production Jennifer Mallory and head of scripted TV Megan Spanjian also exec producing.
“We’ve been working with our friend [president] Kevin Kay at Spike for years. He has a rare gift for creating quality scripted television with commercial appeal and when he shared his vision for both the program and his goals for the network, I knew we had found the perfect partner,” Harvey Weinstein said. “Waco is a provocative series where the drama and excitement are amplified by the truth and the history surrounding the event, along with a cast of amazing actors including the incredible Michael Shannon and Taylor Kitsch. We are looking forward to working with Sharon Levy and her team to bring this story to life.”
Spike exec vp, original series Sharon Levy, senior vp, scripted Ted Gold and vp, scripted Lauren Ruggiero will oversee the project for Spike. Waco marks the latest collaboration for The Weinstein Co. with Spike. In October, both companies teamed for Time: The Kalief Browder Story, a six-part event series from exec producer Jay Z examining the criminal justice system. On the scripted side, Spike is teaming with The Weinstein Co. on The Mist (via its Dimension TV), a 10-episode, straight-to-series order that marks Spike’s first ongoing scripted series in years. The Weinstein Co.’s other TV credits include Netflix’s Marco Polo, Lifetime mini War & Peace, MTV’s Scream, Amazon’s Doctor Thorne, History’s Six and Netflix’s Spy Kids.
For Spike, meanwhile, Waco marks the cable network’s most high-profile scripted project. The cabler has found success with miniseries as its entry point into scripted with Ben Kingsley vehicle Tut and is eyeing The Mist for summer 2017.
“The dramatic events in Waco captivated the nation, and we are thrilled to partner with Weinstein Television and an all-star cast and production team to bring this incredible story to life,” Levy said.
Waco becomes the latest true-crime project for the small screen. The genre has become all the rage on broadcast, cable and streaming outlets following the success of HBO’s The Jinx, Netflix’s Making a Murderer and FX’s The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story. On that note, there are multiple JonBenet Ramsey projects in the works as well as takes on Serial, Patty Hearst, the Menendez brothers, Chandra Levy and Robert Durst, among others. Seasons two and three of FX anthology American Crime Story will explore Hurricane Katrina and the slaying of legendary designer Gianni Versace, respectively.
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