HBO parsed out some details on Mike Nichols directing of Meryl Streep in the network’s adaptation of Master Class, Terrence McNally’s Tony Award-winning play about Maria Callas. The project is a reteaming of Nichols and Streep, who worked together on the premium channel’s Angels In America nearly a decade ago. Master Class begins production in early ’15, depicting the master classes the operatic great gave to hand-picked students at the Juilliard School in the early 1970s.
During its day at the TCA Summer Press Tour, the network also reiterated that Queen Latifah will star in and exec produce HBO Films’ Bessie, about blues singer Bessie Smith, written and directed by Dee Rees, with shooting in Atlanta, debuting next year; Michael K, Williams, Khandi Alexander, Mike Epps, Tika Sumpter, Tory Kittles, Oliver Platt, Bryan Greenberg, Charles Dutton and Mo’Nique co-star. The project focuses on Smith’s growth from struggling young singer into “Empress of the Blues” and one of the most successful recording artists of the 1920s.
Boardwalk Empire’s eight-episode fifth and final season launches September 7, HBO said today. While the first four seasons of the series from Terence Winter and director Martin Scorsese were set during Prohibition in the ’20s, when Nucky Thompson (Steve Buscemi) was the undisputed leader of Atlantic City, the fifth season is set in the depths of the Depression in 1931, with Nucky plotting a post-Prohibition future.
Jonah From Tonga, a new comedy series from Chris Lilley, debuts August 8. It centers on Jonah Takulau, whose father banishes him to the island of Tongapatu when he’s expelled from Summer Heights High, in order to spend time with his extended family and get his life back together.
The pay cable network, which recently announced a Monday night documentary block, confirmed its docu lineup for the second half of 2014. Among the new films to debut in the weekly slot are Kate Davis and David Heilbroner’s The Newburgh Sting (July 21), an inside look at the rarely told story of the FBI’s involvement in a homegrown terror case; Nixon By Nixon: In His Own Words (August 4), exploring Nixon through thousands of hours of recently declassified audiotapes recorded in the White House, with Peter Kunhardt directing; and Jeremiah Zagar’s Captivated: The Trials Of Pamela Smart (August 18), looking at the 1990 trial of the 21-year-old woman accused of plotting her husband’s murder, which was the first trial televised gavel-to-gavel. Steve Buscemi’s A Good Job: Stories Of The FDNY (Sept. 8) details life working for the New York City Fire Department; Hunted: The War Against Gays In Russia (October), is the story of a group of citizens who attack and torment gay men and women in that country; directed by Ben Steele. And Nancy Kates directed Regarding Susan Sontag (December), which profiles the life of the literary, political and feminist icon through archival materials and accounts from friends, family, colleagues and lovers, as well as her own words, as read by Patricia Clarkson.