EXCLUSIVE: The origin story on Essence magazine is the subject of a period drama series in development at HBO Max. It is executive produced by Edward Lewis, the co-founder of Essence magazine and chairman and publisher emeritus of Essence Communications Inc., one of the largest African-American owned communications companies in the United States.
Set amid the changing social and cultural landscape of post-civil rights era America, the series is inspired by the relationships between the men who founded the iconic women’s magazine, Essence, and the women who were the creative force behind it, as they create something mainstream America has never seen before. The show will tell the story of a Black startup before “startup” was a term and explores universal themes of love, loss and the pursuit of the American Dream.
Shukree Tilghman and Jessica Rambo have been tapped to write the project.
Lewis, Clarence O. Smith, Cecil Hollingsworth and Jonathan Blount founded Essence Communications Inc. in 1968. The company began publishing Essence magazine in May 1970 as a lifestyle magazine for upscale Black women.
Also executive producing the project are Korin Williams, the former head of television at Will Packer Productions, and fellow Will Packer alum Monique Nash, via their Kronicle Media, as well as John Sacchi and Matt Groesch of 5 More Minutes Productions.
Kronicle is behind Lifetime’s Merry Liddle Christmas movie and its upcoming sequel; 5 More Minutes produces YA mystery drama One of Us Is Lying, which was picked up to series by Peacock.
Tilghman is repped by UTA and manager Stephen Gates at Ellipsis Entertainment; Rambo is with manager Josh Kesselman at Thruline.
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