EXCLUSIVE: HBO has given a pilot order to Cold War spy drama The Missionary. Emmy-winning Breaking Bad co-star Aaron Paul is in talks for the lead in the project, from film/TV writer Charles Randolph (The Interpreter) and producer Stephen Levinson as well as best-selling author Malcolm Gladwell and frequent Levinson collaborator Mark Wahlberg.
Set in Berlin in the late 1960s, The Missionary, written by Randolph, centers on a young American missionary (Paul) who becomes involved with the CIA. Randolph and New Yorker writer Gladwell, who are friends, had been working on an idea for a spy project when they met with Levinson and Wahlberg, who also had been looking to do a spy drama. The four joined forces and last fall took the project to HBO, where Levinson and Wahlberg have produced four series: Boardwalk Empire, Entourage, In Treatment and How To Make It In America. Randolph, Levinson, Gladwell and Wahlberg executive produce The Missionary, which HBO is producing in association with Levinson’s Leverage and Wahlberg’s Closest to the Hole Prods. The Missionary is the second Cold War-era cable spy drama pilot ordered this year, along with FX’s The Americans, about undercover KGB spies in the U.S. played by Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys. At HBO, it joins another period drama, Prohibition mob series Boardwalk Empire, also executive produced by Levinson and Wahlberg.
The Missionary would mark Paul’s followup to his breakout role opposite Bryan Cranston on the dark AMC drama Breaking Bad, which has earned him two Emmy nominations and a win. The series will end its run with a two-part, 16-episode fifth season that premieres July 15. Missionary also would mark Paul’s return to HBO, where he recurred on Big Love. On the big screen, the UTA-repped actor starred in this year’s Sundance entry Smashed.