Exactly a year after FX landed the spec for Tyrant in a competitive situation, the cable network has given the drama project from Homeland co-creators Howard Gordon and Gideon Raff and Six Feet Under alum Craig Wright a series order for a minimum of 10 episodes to debut next summer. The series pickup for Tyrant comes on the heels of FX’s series order to Guillermo del Toro and Carlton Cuse’s The Strain. Along with American Horror Story a couple of years ago, Tyrant and The Strain were the only projects to land FX pilot orders off a pitch/spec. All three had such big commitments that a series order was all but certain and all three had received orders for backup scripts in anticipation of a series pickup. Tyrant, produced by Fox 21 and FX Prods., was the riskiest of the three with its Middle Eastern setting. It did hit several bumps along the way — original director Ang Lee exited, with David Yates stepping in. There were questions about where the series would be filmed (It will be shot in Tel Aviv after the pilot was done in Morocco.) I hear FX brass had reservations about the first cut of the pilot but loved the final one. “With Tyrant, Howard Gordon, Gideon Raff and Craig Wright have produced a beautiful television pilot that will be a groundbreaking television series,” said FX Networks CEO John Landgraf. “Tyrant introduces characters and a world that have never been explored in a dramatic television series format. There is a reason a bidding war broke out over this project: it grabs you as all great epics do and simply refuses to let go!” Added 20th TV chairmen Dana Walden and Gary Newman, “This is one of the most ambitious series we’ve ever set out to make and we couldn’t be more grateful to John and everyone at FX who believed in its potential since the very first pitch.”
Tyrant tells the story of an unassuming American family drawn into the workings of a turbulent Middle Eastern nation. Bassam “Barry” Al Fayeed (Adam Rayner), the younger son of the dictator of a war-torn nation, ends a self-imposed 20-year exile to return to his homeland, accompanied by his American wife and children, for his nephew’s wedding. Barry’s reluctant homecoming leads to a dramatic clash of cultures as he is thrown back into the familial and national politics of his youth. “From the moment Gideon pitched me the idea, I felt that this was a tremendous opportunity to humanize and dramatize the faces behind the headlines that we read about every day,” said Gordon. “We’ll also get to explore on the tension between power and family loyalty.”
Tyrant was created by Raff and developed by Gordon and Wright, with Raff writing the pilot. and comes from Gordon’s 20th TV-based Teakwood Lane. Gordon, Raff and Wright are executive producers in association with Keshet Broadcasting. Gordon is expected to serve as showrunner, with a search underway for senior writer-producers. Tyrant‘s ensemble cast includes Rayner, Jennifer Finnigan, Ashraf Barhom, Moran Atias, Noah Silver, Anne Winters, Fares Fares, Salim Daw, Justin Kirk, Jordana Spiro, Mehdi Dehbi, and Alice Krige. Of the 18 drama pilots produced by FX since 2004, 15 have been ordered to series including Rescue Me, Over There, Thief, Dirt, The Riches, Damages, Sons Of Anarchy, Justified, Lights Out, Terriers, American Horror Story, The Americans, The Bridge, The Strain, and Tyrant.