Paramount+ has handed a series order to Happy Face, a crime drama series, based on a hit podcast, that tells the story of a notorious serial killer who was infamous for drawing smiley faces on letters to the media and prosecutors.
The project, which had previously been in development at Paramount+ precursor CBS All Access, comes from Your Honor writer Jennifer Cacicio and The Good Fight’s Robert and Michelle King.
Happy Face is based on the eponymous iHeartMedia podcast, which tells the story of Melissa Jesperson-Moore, a contributor to the Dr. Oz show, who at age 15 discovered that her father, Keith Hunter Jesperson, was the serial murderer, known as the Happy Face Killer. As an adult, Melissa changed her name, guarded her secret, and cut off all ties to her father, who is currently serving life in prison.
The scripted series will tell Melissa’s true-life story and will see her father contact her to take credit for another victim, which sees Melissa gets pulled into an investigation of her father and his crimes. The drama follows her as she discovers the impact her father’s crimes had on the families of his victims, which ultimately leads to a reckoning of her own identity.
Happy Face is produced by CBS Studios in association with King Size Productions and iHeartMedia. It is written by and exec produced by Cacicio and exec produced by Robert and Michelle King, King Size Productions’ Liz Glotzer, Melissa Jesperson-Moore, and iHeartMedia’s Bob Pittman and Conal Byrne
“We’re obsessed with true-crime podcasts, and Happy Face is the best we’ve heard,” said Robert and Michelle King. “Melissa’s story screams out to be dramatized, and Jen is exactly the showrunner to do it.”
“Melissa’s unique, deeply personal and utterly shocking story has captivated listeners around the world. We couldn’t be more excited to have Jennifer at the helm of this project for Paramount+ alongside the incomparable Robert and Michelle King,” said Nicole Clemens, President, Paramount+ Original Scripted Series. “The Good Fight and more recently Evil are two of the most successful series on our service, and we look forward to bringing our subscribers yet another series for fans to love.”
“Melissa’s experience – and her bravery in sharing it with world – was one of the most remarkable partnerships we’ve been able to support here at iHeart,” said Conal Byrne, CEO of iHeartMedia’s Digital Audio Group. “And we know that audiences will be just as moved by the on-screen adaptation of Happy as they were with the hugely successful podcast. Paramount+ has quickly built a fantastic reputation, with some of today’s most exciting content. It’s the perfect home for this incredible story.”
“It’s been an incredible journey that I couldn’t have ever foreseen – how I’ve transcended being raised by a serial killer and now am helping survivors tell their stories,” said Melissa Jesperson-Moore, Executive Producer and CEO of Redletter Media. “Happy Face gives me the chance to share the intense internal conflict, fear and peril felt by those affected by true crime. It also inspires me to share the strength that has allowed me to step up in front of the camera so that other survivors will not feel alone in their experience.”
Caccio is represented by UTA, HVE and Gang Tyre Ramer Brown & Passman. UTA brokered the deal on behalf of iHeartMedia and Melissa Jesperson-Moore, and represents Robert and Michelle King. Jesperson-Moore is also repped by Shaun Gordon at Weintraub Tobin.
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