EXCLUSIVE: Daytime Emmy-winning producer Taj Paxton is teaming with Don Handfield (Knightfall, The Founder) to develop a family drama series inspired by the true-life story of Paxton’s mother, Judge Mablean Ephriam, the first presiding judge of the syndicated TV series Divorce Court.
Ephriam, who hosts Justice with Judge Mablean, was the first African American woman to have a nationally televised court show. A former Los Angeles prosecuting attorney, she also served as a lead attorney in L.A.’s inaugural Domestic Violence Unit.
When Mablean first opened her private family law practice, however, money was so tight that her young children worked as her employees. A 10-year-old Paxton would serve as her legal secretary, typing up court briefs while her older brothers filed court documents and assisted in serving subpoenas. Inspired by those beginnings, the series will center on a tenacious but tender working-class black mother who, like Ephriam, works as a correctional officer to put herself through law school. She also manages a challenging relationship with her husband, a charming, street-smart man whose fierce independence often lands him on the wrong side of the law.
Paxton, also head of Logo Documentary Films, will write and executive produce the potential series alongside Handfield via his Motor shingle. Ephriam will serve as a consultant and executive producer.
“Though the series will be based on my story as a black mother and woman who worked hard to fulfill her childhood dreams of becoming a lawyer and judge, my failures and victories echo the lives of many black women, in particular, and women in general, as they deal with juggling career, motherhood and marriage,” Ephriam said.
In 2018, Paxton and Ephriam made history when they became first mother-daughter duo nominated for a Daytime Emmy in the same year. Paxton, who has a producing deal at MTV Studios, was nominated twice again this year and won for the documentary Quiet Heroes, her fifth career Emmy.
“In some way my whole journey has been building up to telling this story and all its elements: chaos, coming of age, tumult, empowerment, triumph and above all else, love,” said Paxton. “I’m so glad to have found a producing partner like Don who understands the complexity of the story and shares our passion for telling it authentically.”
Added Handfield: “Taj, like other great documentary filmmakers, has such a gift for capturing authentic human experience, I am incredibly grateful to be a part of bringing both her incredible talents and her family’s inspiring journey to the small screen.”
Paxton is repped by Kronicle Media and Bonnie Berry Lamon, Esq. Handfield is repped by The Cartel and Dale De La Torre of Jacobsen Russell.
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