In one of the first major pieces of new development outside of the Breaking Bad universe, Vince Gilligan has signed on to write and executive produce Raven, a limited series for HBO about Jim Jones, the infamous leader of the Peoples Temple cult who led his followers to a mass murder-suicide in Jonestown, Guyana, in 1978.
On Raven, Breaking Bad creator/executive producer Gilligan is reuniting with the AMC series’ executive producer/director Michelle MacLaren, who is set to direct the limited series. The two are executive producing the project with actress Octavia Spencer, who had optioned the source material — the nonfiction book Raven: The Untold Story of Jim Jones and His People by Tim Reiterman, a journalist who survived the events in Guyana — more than four years ago. Reilly Smith, who had secured the rights to the book with Spencer, will co-produce. Sony Pictures TV, where Gilligan and his High Bridge Prods. are based, is the studio. There are no plans for Spencer to act in the project.
Raven is described as the definitive history of Peoples Temple from its idealistic beginnings to its terrible end in Jonestown. The adaptation will focus on Jim Jones but also on his followers, who, by and large, were ordinary people of good will. It tells the mysterious story of how so many of them came to give up their lives for this man.
This is the second Jim Jones/Peoples Temple series in the works. In January, A&E announced an anthology series in development focused on American cults, which is produced by Jake Gyllenhaal. Season 1 focuses on Jones and his cult The Peoples Temple of the Disciples of Christ.
Gilligan and MacLaren shared two best drama series Emmy Awards as executive producers of Breaking Bad. In addition to that show, Gilligan co-created its prequel, Better Call Saul, which has done well with viewers and critics and is nominated for Best Drama Series Emmy for a second consecutive year. Following the end of Breaking Bad, Gilligan also executive produced the CBS series Battle Creek, based on an old pilot script he had written years ago. All series have been produced by Sony TV.
In addition to her work on Breaking Bad, MacLaren has directed episodes of AMC’s The Walking Dead and HBO’s Game of Thrones and upcoming David Simon drama The Deuce. She also is set to direct the feature film adaption of Kristin Hannah’s bestselling novel The Nightingale.
Oscar winner Spencer, recently seen/heard in Allegiant and Zootopia, next will co-star in Fox’s Hidden Figures. She is repped by WME.
Gilligan and MacLaren are repped by ICM Partners. Gilligan is also repped by Del Shaw. MacLaren additionally is repped by Stone Genow.