In a very competitive situation, with production offers from multiple streaming and cable outlets, I have learned that Amazon has nabbed the hot drama series project Homecoming starring Oscar winner Julia Roberts. I hear the half-hour drama from Universal Cable Productions and Mr. Robot creator Sam Esmail, who is directing and executive producing, has received a two-season straight-to-series order.
Homecoming, based on Gimlet Media’s breakout fictional podcast that launched in November, has been a hot property from the start. The podcast immediately was pursued by several top film and TV producers and studios. UCP landed the rights to Homecoming in December in a very competitive situation for Esmail to develop as a TV series via his overall deal there. Anonymous Content, which produces Mr. Robot with UCP, also came on board to produce. The project immediately attracted major A-list actors, with Roberts engaging in conversations in early June that led to a deal.
Written by the podcast’s creators Eli Horowitz and Micah Bloomberg and directed by Esmail, Homecoming is a psychological thriller that centers on a caseworker at a secret government facility (Roberts) and a soldier eager to rejoin civilian life.
Presented in a collage of telephone calls, therapy sessions and overheard conversations, the Homecoming podcast had a cast led by Catherine Keener that also included Oscar Isaac, David Schwimmer, Amy Sedaris and David Cross. Keener voiced the caseworker, with Isaac as the soldier.
The first season of Homecoming received critical praise and was named a finalist for the 2016 Peabody Awards. Season 2 premieres today, July 19.
The Homecoming TV series is produced by Esmail through his production company Esmail Corp; as well as Mr. Robot executive producer Chad Hamilton of Anonymous Content; the podcast’s Horowitz and Bloomberg; Alicia Van Couvering; and Chris Giliberti, Alex Blumberg, and Matt Lieber of Gimlet Media. Roberts also will serve as executive producer through her production company RedOm; her partners Lisa Gillan and Marisa Gill will co-executive producers.
Amazon Studios will have global rights to Homecoming, which will premiere globally exclusively on Amazon Prime Video.
This is the second big drama series package toplined by Oscar-winning actors to get a two-season pickup at Amazon, following David O. Russell’s mafia crime drama starring Robert De Niro and Julianne Moore. Amazon also recently gave a two-season pickup to Amy Sherman-Palladino’s The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel starring Rachel Brosnahan.
The half-hour drama format is relatively rare, with another series revolving about therapy sessions, HBO’s In Treatment, among the more notable examples.
Homecoming marks Roberts’ first starring TV series role. She has done just a handful of guest appearances on TV shows and recently starred in the HBO movie The Normal Heart.
The Amazon series is not expected to interfere with Roberts’ commitment to Today Will Be Different, the limited series she is attached to headline and executive produce for Annapurna Television. It is in development at HBO.
This marks the second major streaming sale for UCP this month, following the straight-to-series order for The Umbrella Academy at Netflix as the NBCUniversal studio has been expanding its business beyond NBCU’s cable networks.
Amazon also has streaming rights to Esmail/UCP’s awards-winning USA drama series Mr. Robot.
Podcast network Gimlet Media was launched in 2014 by Blumberg, a former producer for This American Life, and Matt Lieber. Homecoming is the company’s second TV series, joining Alex, Inc, a single-camera comedy based on Blumberg’s podcast of the same name and starring and directed by Zach Braff, which was picked up by ABC for next season.