After a heated bidding war, Boss, a political drama project starring Kelsey Grammer and written by Apocalypto co-writer Farhad Safinia, has landed at Starz with an 8-episode straight-to-series order. In his first foray into television, Milk director Gus Van Sant is set to direct the pilot and executive produce the series, which will be produced by Lionsgate Television. This also marks the cable debut of one of broadcast TV’s most recognizable stars, Grammer, as well as his first foray into drama series. It is also his first project since recently signing with WME. Boss will star Grammer as the Mayor of Chicago who is diagnosed with a degenerative mental condition that only he and his doctor know about. It is described as a King Lear-inspired tale of power set in Chicago’s political machine. Grammer will executive produce along with his new Grammnet Prods. partner Brian Sher as well as Van Sant and Stella Stolper.
Safinia and Grammer were introduced a year ago by Stolper and Sher. The two bonded over their love of William Shakespeare and specifically, King Lear. Grammer has strong theater ties. He started off on stage and made his Broadway debut in Shakespeare’s Macbeth. (He also starred in the Broadway revival of Othello.) Grammer and Safinia decided to partner on developing a contemporary series project that draws on the classic play while Grammer was working on Broadway in La Cage Aux Folles, a musical that earned him a Tony nomination. Safinia wrote the script on spec, with input from Grammer and his company. WME, which repped all parties involved, then passed the script to Van Sant. Boss was taken out in the marketplace two weeks ago, garnering strong interest from several cable networks. Starz won the bidding with its aggressive offer for an 8-episode series order. Boss falls under the pay cable network’s business model of ordering projects straight-to-series. It is the second such order for Starz president and CEO Chris Albrecht after the 10-episode pickup of Camelot earlier this year.
Grammer recently relaunched Grammnet in partnership with former ICM agent Sher to develop scripted and non-scripted shows. Sher continues to run his Category 5 management and production firm, whose clients include Safinia. Grammnet’s previous series credits include Medium, Girlfriends and The Game. Van Sant, a two-time Oscar nominee, also helmed To Die For and Good Will Hunting. Safinia most recently adapted the Aldous Huxley novel Brave New World for Universal Pictures for Leonardo DiCaprio to star and Ridley Scott to direct. He is currently writing the Allen Counter project at Sony for Will Smith to star and his Overbrook Entertainment to produce.