EXCLUSIVE: Chicago PD alumna Sophia Bush is returning to television. In one of the biggest sales so far this pitch season, CBS has given a production commitment to Surveillance, a spy thriller drama starring Bush, from The Passage and Batman‘s Matt Reeves, writer David C. White (Sons of Liberty), director Patricia Riggen (Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan) and 20th Century Fox TV, which will co-produce with CBS TV Studios.
While the deal is for a production commitment, I hear 20th TV is in the process of hiring a casting director, and the intent is to film a pilot later this fall.
This marks a big breakthrough in the relationship between CBS and 20th TV — it is the network’s first buy from 20th TV in almost three years, since the 2015-16 development season. It would be the first 20th TV-produced pilot at CBS since Life In Pieces in spring 2015.
Written by White, with Riggen set to direct, Surveillance is described as a complex and timely spy thriller centered around the head of communications for the NSA (Bush), a charming operative who finds her loyalties torn between protecting the government’s secrets and her own.
Reeves executive produces via his 6th & Idaho production company alongside Riggen; White co-executive produces.
A different incarnation of the project from White and Reeves was originally set up at Fox last season for development but did not go to pilot. With Terence Carter, who had bought the pitch as head of drama development at Fox last season, moving to 20th TV to head development there, the script was rewritten, and the studio brought Bush and Riggen on board before taking the package out.
Bush’s involvement stems from an exclusive talent holding and development deal she signed with 20th TV last fall. Reeves and his 6th & Idaho also have been under a deal at 20th TV, while Riggen this past season directed the studio’s legal drama pilot Proven Innocent, which went to series at Fox.
CBS and 20th TV have a long tradition of doing business together that yielded a number of long-running hits, most recently comedy How I Met Your Mother. As CBS stepped up its efforts to increase ownership in its programming several years go, the relationship between the two companies became strained though the network still ordered Life In Pieces to pilot and then to series during the 2014-15 development season. Renewal negotiations on the family comedy have been difficult and it was on the bubble this past spring but clinched a Season 4 midseason order.
During the 2015-16 season, CBS gave a big put pilot commitment to a 20th TV crime drama from Matt Nix and Amy Holden Jones. It got an informal pilot order which was scrapped as the network and studio could not agree on co-production terms.
There had been a dry spell since. While there had been signs of a thaw in the relationship between the two companies following the 2016 dustup, and CBS had been taking 20th TV pitches, there had been no 20th TV sales to CBS the last two seasons, until the blockbuster commitment for Surveillance this week. 20th TV will soon become part of Disney as part of Disney’s pending acquisition of key Fox assets.
Reeves executive produces 20th TV’s high-profile new drama series for Fox The Passage. The Felicity co-creator also wrote and directed War for the Planet of the Apes, directed Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and Cloverfield and has been working on a Batman movie. He is repped by CAA, 3 Arts, and attorney Karl Austen.
Riggen also helmed the USA/Syfy pilot Run For Your Life, multiple episodes of Amazon’s Jack Ryan and the feature Miracles From Heaven. She is repped by CAA and Brillstein Entertainment Partners. White also is with CAA.
This marks a return to series television for One Tree Hill and Chicago PD star Bush, who a year ago exited the NBC cop drama after playing Detective Erin Lindsay for four seasons. She had sought major changes on the set of the series, which had been described as a tough environment for a female performer. They are believed to be, at least in part, related to series star Jason Beghe’s “inappropriate behavior,” which NBC later investigated.
Before that, Bush starred on the long-running drama series One Tree Hill, which aired for nine seasons on the WB and the CW.
Bush recently signed on as a lead in the indie Hard Luck Love Song. Her film credits also include Acts of Violence, Incredibles 2 and the cult hit John Tucker Must Die. She’s repped by CAA, Untitled and Jackoway Austen.