EXCLUSIVE: OWN’s coming -of-age drama series, from Oscar-winning Moonlight co-writer Tarell Alvin McCraney in his TV debut, will be titled David Makes Man. The project, from Warner Horizon Scripted Television, has set a cast led by veteran Phylicia Rashad and young actor Akili McDowell (The Astronaut Wives Club) in the title role, with Nathaniel Logan McIntyre (Magic Camp and Barry), Broadway actor Isaiah Johnson (Hamilton, The Color Purple), Ade Chike Torbert (East Los High), Jordan Bolger (Peaky Blinders), Cayden K. Williams (Girls Trip), and Travis Coles (Liza on Demand) co-starring.
Additionally, Dee Harris-Lawrence (Shots Fired, Unsolved) has been named showrunner and will executive produce alongside McCraney, who wrote the script, Mike Kelley & Melissa Loy, actor Michael B. Jordan and OWN’s Oprah Winfrey. Production will begin this summer in Orlando, Florida, for a 2019 premiere.
David Makes Man centers on David (McDowell), a 14-year-old prodigy from the projects who is haunted by the death of his closest friend and relied on by his hardworking mother to find a way out of poverty. He must choose between the streets that raised him or the higher education that may offer him a way out. Set in South Florida, the lyrical drama, inspired by events in McCraney’s own life, explores the inherent trauma sustained in the fight for survival.
McDowell’s David is a former block drug dealer from a state housing project in Homestead, Florida, who rides a bus every day to attend a magnet school for academically gifted kids. Aware of the expectations and perceptions others have of him, he has become an expert chameleon who toggles between two distinct personas that reflect his surroundings — but this exacts an emotional price.
Rashad will play Dr. Woods-Trap, a respected and intimidating instructor at David’s middle school who is one of those teachers that students remember for the rest of their lives. Her assignments are challenging but rewarding, and her students genuinely like and respect her. Though firm with David, she sees something special in him and becomes his advocate.
Rashad has a close relationship with exec producers McCraney and Jordan — she starred in McCraney’s play Head of Passes in 2017 — and co-stars opposite Jordan in the Creed movie franchise.
McIntyre will play David’s best friend, Seren who holds painful secrets and whose relationship with David has recently become fraught. Johnson plays David’s close friend, Sky, prone to quiz and give David advice. Torbert will play Raynan, whose ties to the drug trade drive a wedge between him and David, despite Raynan’s desire to connect on behalf of their mutual friend. Bolger will play Shinobi, Raynan’s second-in-command who, like Raynan, clashes with David. Williams will play JG (Jonathan Greg), David’s rough-and-tumble younger brother, who is more vulnerable than one might expect. Coles will play the genderqueer Ms. Elijah, a longtime Homestead Village resident who watches over David when his mother is away. Ms. Elijah knows all the skeletons of Homestead Village and its residents
Harris-Lawrence most recently was writer/co-executive producer on USA’s Unsolved: The Murders of Tupac and the Notorious B.I.G., and Fox’s Shots Fired and Star. Before that, she served in the same capacity on series such as Zoo, Detroit 187 and Saving Grace.
David Makes Man is produced by Page Fright and Outlier Productions in association with Warner Horizon Scripted Television.
Coles is repped by Seven Summits, SDB and Myman Greenspan Fox Rosenberg Mobasser Younger & Light. Harris-Lawrence is repped by CAA and Del Shaw Moonves. McDowell is repped by Pastorini-Bosby Talent Agency and Myman Greenspan Fox.