Dope writer-director Rick Famuyiwa has joined Showtime’s Chicago-set drama project from Lena Waithe, Common, Aaron Kaplan and Fox 21 TV Studios. With Famuyiwa on board to direct, I hear the project, which has been redeveloped and will be recast, is on track for a series order.
The untitled drama — a distinctive coming-of-age story of a young African-American male in which just growing up can be a matter of life and death — originated as a spec script by writer-producer-actress Waithe (Dear White People), who developed it with Kaplan at his Kapital Entertainment. The script landed a pilot order at Showtime in summer 2015 with Common on board as executive producer and Clark Johnson set to direct. Elwood Reid subsequently joined as showrunner.
While the pilot did not go to series, Showtime brass liked the general premise and Waithe’s voice. A small writers room was set up to produce several scripts and outlines, including a new pilot script. Based on the new material, Showtime and Fox 21 proceeded to hire Famuyiwa as a new director. He will serve as an executive producer on the potential series alongside Waithe, Kaplan and Reid, who will continue as showrunner.
Recasting on many of the roles starts immediately. While final deal, budget and other points are still being worked out and Showtime has not officially committed to a series order, I hear the intention is to go to series, with a 10-episode pickup considered likely.
Famuyiwa, whose feature Dope won the Grand Jury Prize at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival, recently directed the HBO Films movie Confirmation starring Kerry Washington.
This would mark the sixth on-air series — first ever on Showtime — for Kapital Entertainment and third in the premium cable/streaming space, joining the Sarah Jessica Parker-starring comedy Divorce on HBO, recently renewed for a second season, and Netflix’s upcoming Santa Clarita Diet starring Drew Barrymore. The company also has ABC’s American Housewife and Secret & Lies and CBS’ Life in Pieces.
This also would mark the first scripted series produced by actor-musician Common, Oscar winner for co-writing the song “Glory” from Selma.
Waithe was a producer on indie Dear White People, winner of Sundance’s Special Jury Prize in 2014. Her writing credits include Bones, the viral video “Shit Black Girls Say” and webisodes about online dating called Hello Cupid.