Warner Bros. Television Group has signed an exclusive multi-year development and production pod deal with broadcaster, author and producer Tavis Smiley to develop scripted TV series for broadcast and cable. The first projects under the deal will be TV series adaptations of two of Smiley’s books: the upcoming Before You Judge Me: The Triumph And Tragedy of Michael Jackson’s Last Days, an account of the final 16 weeks in the life of the music superstar; and My Journey With Maya, a memoir of the author’s nearly 30-year friendship with renowned poet Maya Angelou.
WBTVG and Smiley already are working on a project together — the studio this year acquired TV rights to Smiley’s book Death Of A King: The Real Story Of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Final Year, which is being developed as an event series with J.J. Abrams’ Bad Robot Productions.
Set to be published in June 2016, Before You Judge Me is described as a taut novelistic rendering of the final months in the life of the iconic pop star, chronicling his constant hunt for privacy in a life that was more public than almost any other, and the pressures he endured as someone whose fame made him socially fragile and almost unable to live.
In My Journey With Maya, published in April 2015, Smiley shares personal memories of his 28-year friendship with poet, historian, filmmaker and civil rights activist Angelou. In addition to the TV project, Smiley and Tony-winning director Kenny Leon (A Raisin In The Sun) are developing Maya as a stage play.
Smiley’s TV projects will be produced through his The Smiley Group, Inc. in association with Warner Bros. Television or Warner Horizon Television, with Warner Bros. Worldwide Television Distribution handling global sales.
Smiley is the host of the late-night television talk show Tavis Smiley on PBS as well as The Tavis Smiley Show from Public Radio International (PRI).
My Journey With Maya, Before You Judge Me and Death Of A King are published by Little, Brown and Company, and written by Smiley with David Ritz. In total, Smiley has written 19 books, including his memoir What I Know For Sure: My Story of Growing Up in America.