UPDATED: On the heels of the success of Hidden Figures about female African-American NASA mathematicians’ contributions to Project Mercury, an event series is looking to shine a light on another little-known group of women in the early 1960s who were denied a chance to be part of the Mercury space program. In her first foray into TV producing, Oscar-nominated actress Jessica Chastain has teamed with Sully writer Todd Komarnicki and TV producer Christina Wayne (Showtime’s I’m Dying Up Here) for Mercury 13 (working title), an event series project set at ITV Studios America, where Wayne’s Assembly Entertainment has a pod deal.
Chastain executive produces via her production company Freckle Films. Komarnicki, who will write the project, executive produces via Guy Walks Into A Bar, alongside Assembly Entertainment’s Wayne.
In 1961, while the world was making heroes of the Mercury 7 astronauts, leading scientist William Randolph Lovelace II, who had helped develop the tests for NASA’s male astronauts, embarked on a secret experiment… to see if sending women to space was an equally viable option. He sought out 13 of the most daring and determined female pilots in the country, who were willing to risk it all to be part of the space race, and achieve their dream of becoming astronauts. They became known as the Mercury 13.
Thewomen passed the same battery of tests as did the male Mercury 7 astronauts, some even outpacing them. But, without NASA’s cooperation, the tests had to be shut down and, despite the women’s pleas to President John F. Kennedy and Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson and a Congress hearing on the issue, women were not allowed into the space program, and it would be more than 20 years before an American woman got to space in 1983. Mercury 13 tells the untold true story of how NASA, the U.S. Congress and the president himself conspired to crush these women’s dreams.
Wayne, who executive produced BBC America’s 1860s drama series Copper, is executive producing the upcoming Showtime dramedy series I’m Dying Up Here, set in 1970s Los Angeles. ITV Studios America is behind ABC’s upcoming summer drama series Somewhere Between.
Komarnicki adapted the bestselling autobiography Highest Duty: My Search For What Really Matters, written by Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger and the late Jeffrey Zaslow, into the box office hit Sully, starring Tom Hanks and directed by Clint Eastwood. Additionally, he has also written, with David Donohue and James Villemaire, The Trainer, starring Liam Neeson and directed by Neil Jordan.
Chastain, Oscar nominee for The Help and Zero Dark Thirty, was recently seen in Miss Sloane.