Facebook has given a ten-episode straight-to-series order to Queen America, a dark comedy starring Oscar winner Catherine Zeta-Jones in her first U.S. TV series role, to run on new video platform Facebook Watch.
Created by Meaghan Oppenheimer (Fear the Walking Dead), Queen America marks the first series order for wiip, the new independent studio launched and led by former ABC Entertainment Group president Paul Lee, which is backed by CAA. The venture stems from lengthy discussions the talent agency held with the former ABC boss about a potential scripted series production entity following his exit from the broadcast network.
Lee’s wiip (word.idea.imagination.production), described as a talent-driven studio, has teamed on Queen America with Bruna Papandrea’s Made Up Stories, which will serve as co-studio partner.
Set in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Queen America is a dark comedy about Vicki Ellis (Zeta-Jones), the most renowned (and ruthless) pageant coach in the state, and the hapless Samantha Stone who hopes Vicki can mold her into worthwhile contender for the title of Miss America. Vicki is desperately sought after by young women competing to be Miss America for one reason; she can turn any girl into a winner. But when she gets paired with the beautiful but unpolished Samantha, Vicki’s entire reputation might be at stake.
Queen America is written by Tulsa native Oppenheimer, who executive produces alongside Made Up Stories’ Bruna Papandrea and Casey Haver. Entertainment 360’s Guymon Casady and Suzan Bymel will also executive produce alongside Janice Williams.
“wiip is focused on creating extraordinary content that remains true to the authentic vision of artists who want to take creative risks to tell original stories,” said Lee. “We are thrilled to collaborate with Meaghan, Bruna, Entertainment 360 and their remarkable creative team, along with our partners at Facebook Watch, to bring this uniquely dark, female-driven comedy, starring celebrated actress Catherine Zeta-Jones, to audiences around the world.”
Queen America reunites Oppenheimer and Papandrea. Two years ago, they worked together on drama Broken, which went to pilot at ABC that attracted Anna Paquin for the lead. Oppenheimer wrote the script and executive produced alongside Papandrea and Papandrea’s former producing partner Reese Witherspoon.
“I’m so excited to be making this show, set in my hometown of Tulsa, Oklahoma — and beyond grateful to be partnered again with Bruna Papandrea, who has championed this project from its earliest stages and proven to be one of the biggest supporters of women in the industry,” said Oppenheimer. “We have been very lucky to have found such great collaborators in wiip, Entertainment 360, and Facebook. To have one of my favorite actresses, Catherine Zeta-Jones, bringing this character to life is a dream come true.”
Papandrea shared a best TV movie/miniseries Emmy for HBO’s Big Little Lies, which she executive produces along with the upcoming TNT series Deadlier Than the Male.
“Meaghan Oppenheimer is an incredible talent and we knew we had to bring this show to the world the second she first pitched us the idea. We are so excited to be collaborating with her, Facebook, and the incredible Catherine Zeta-Jones on this project,” said Papandrea.
Zeta-Jones won an Oscar for Chicago and a Tony for her Broadway debut in Stephen Sondheim’s A Little Night Music. She is coming off a starring turn in Lifetime’s movie Cocaine Godmother, portraying real-life drug kingpin Griselda Blanco.
Queen America, whose premise draws some parallels to the upcoming Netflix series Insatiable, is the second high-profile project to get a straight-to-series order by Facebook Watch with a star attached as the lead, following the 10-episode order to half-hour female-driven dramedy, toplined by Elizabeth Olsen.