Robert De Niro and Jane Rosenthal’s Tribeca Productions has teamed with Law & Order veteran Rene Balcer and best-selling author James Patterson for a different take on the crime drama genre. The civil rights crime drama, inspired by James Patterson’s debut crime novel, The Thomas Berryman Number, has sold to CBS with put pilot commitment. CBS Television Studios is producing with James Patterson Entertainment, which has a first-look deal at the studio, and Tribeca.
The Edgar Award-winning book centers on a messianic hit man hired to assassinate the first black mayor of Nashville, triggering a desperate manhunt. The series adaptation, written by Balcer, will focus on the repercussions from the events in the novel in present day. It centers on an FBI agent who works in the Criminal Section of the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division investigating crimes based on civil rights violations across the country. She finds herself caught between the radical family she was born into and the professional family she has chosen.
The series touches on the racial aspects of crime that have been stirring a national debate in the past few months with several high-profile cases, including the recent civil unrest in Ferguson, Missouri following the shooting Michael Brown, a young black man, by a white cop.
The Department of Justice formed their Civil Rights Division in 1957. Starting in the 60’s, the lawyers from the department teamed up with FBI agents. They were referred to as the “Mississippi Burning” teams, and were sent to the Deep South to investigate crimes involving violent interference with the liberties and rights as defined by the Constitution. These teams still exist today in the department but with a nationwide focus — in 2012 alone, 6700 different hate crimes were clocked by the FBI.
Emmy winner Balcer, who also serves as showrunner, executive produces the civil rights crime drama with Tribeca’s De Niro and Rosenthal and James Patterson Entertainment’s James Patterson, Leopoldo Gout and Bill Robinson, while Tribeca’s Berry Welsh serves as co-executive producer.
This marks the second collaboration between Tribeca and James Patterson. The companies also have a direct-to-series drama in development at Sonar Entertainment based on Patterson’s Private book series, with Ed Bernero writing and Brad Furman attached to direct. Patterson also has Zoo, CBS/CBS Studios’ summer 2015 drama series based on his book, while Tribeca produces NBC’s comedy series About A Boy.
Balcer, repped by CAA, Brillstein and Don Walerstein, is a 20-year veteran of the Law & Order franchise. He wrote an episode in the first season of the flagship Law & Order and joined the series in Season 2. He rose to executive producer before leaving in 2001 to executive produce and showrun spinoff L&O: Criminal Intent, which he developed with creator Dick Wolf. Tribeca is with CAA and Grubman, Shire,Meiselas; James Patterson Entertainment is with CAA and Peter Grossman.