Topic Studios is developing a scripted TV series based on Benito Cereno, the 1855 Herman Melville novella about the fictionalized revolt of a Spanish slave ship. The series, which will be adapted to take place in deep space, is created by The Knick scribe/co-executive producer Steven Katz, who will write and executive produced project.
Topic Studios will also executive produce alongside Manage-ment’s Dan Halsted and Corinne Hayoun.
Inspired by the novella — considered one of Melville’s finest works as a commentary on slavery, the nature of man and good versus evil — the series will be a science fiction thriller centered on an accidental encounter between a human commercial ship and an alien slave freighter, where the human captain navigates a world of inter-species slavery in a distant future with frightening parallels to our past.
“Benito Cereno is one of Melville’s most thought-provoking short stories, and Steven has been able to retain its essence, while reimagining it for modern audiences,” said Lisa Leingang, SVP Programming & Content at Topic Studios. “The result will be something so innovative and radical that we can’t wait for audiences to see it.”
Added Katz: “It’s an incredibly thrilling tale from Melville, a writer we normally think of as being cerebral. Although it does plumb his classic themes of good vs. evil and dark vs. light.”
The latest Topic deal comes after it acquired film and TV rights last month to another novella, Cory Doctorow’s upcoming sci-fi tale Unauthorized Bread, the first in a four-part short story series Radicalized that will debut in 2019. The studio also produced Debra Granik’s film Leave No Trace and has TV adaptations in the works including the Oren Moverman dystopian adaptation The Good Girl, and documentaries including XY Chelsea, about U.S. Army intelligence analyst-turned-whistleblower Chelsea Manning, which was acquired by Showtime.
Katz, whose writing credits include the films Shadow of the Vampire and Wind Chill, and the TV series From the Earth to the Moon and Manhunt: Unabomber, is repped by CAA, Manage-ment and Sloss Eckhouse.