EXCLUSIVE: Former Vikings star Travis Fimmel is set to star in Raised By Wolves, Scott Free Productions’ straight-to-series sci-fi drama for TNT, which will mark Ridley Scott’s TV helming debut. The first series ordered for the Ridley Scott-curated sci-fi programming block on TNT, Raised By Wolves is part of the ramp-up at Scott’s Scott Free, which has seven series on broadcast, cable and streaming, more than it has ever had at one time. The list also includes returning dramas The Terror on AMC, The Man In the High Castle on Amazon and The Good Fight and Strange Angel on CBS All Access, as well as the upcoming The Passage on Fox and the Hot Zone limited series on National Geographic.
The company’s development slate includes two broadcast dramas, Gideon Crew, from writer Chap Taylor, at NBC, and Humint, from writer Kyle Harimoto, at CBS; Girls with Guns, from frequent collaborators Robert and Michelle King, at CBS Access; as well as seven other dramas in consideration for TNT’s sci-fi block at TNT. Those include The Long Dark, created/executive produced by Drew Crevello, eyed to potentially become the second series after Raised By Wolves; and Explorers We, based on the short story by Philip K. Dick, from writer/executive producer Cris Cole and exec producer Isa Dick Hackett who also exec produces Scott Free’s adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s Man In the High Castle.
Scott Free launched its TV operation in 2001 with one employee, David Zucker, who has spearheaded the company’s efforts over the past two decades as president of television.
“That’s how it started, so where we are today is pretty formidable output,” Scott said. “The company’s moving so well that I can’t even see the horizon now; pretty f*cking good.” What’s more, the slate features “very diversified material, which I can’t say I’m responsible for any of this, but every now and again I get critical, or try to give good advice, which is entirely ignored,” Ridley quipped.
Besides Zucker, the company’s TV team also includes longtime executives Clayton Krueger and Jordan Sheehan, both EVPs of Television.
Raised By Wolves, from writer-showrunner Aaron Guzikowski, Scott Free, Turner’s Studio T and Madhouse Entertainment, centers on two androids — Father and Mother — tasked with raising human children on a mysterious virgin planet. As the burgeoning colony of humans threatens to be torn apart by religious differences, the androids learn that controlling the beliefs of humans is a treacherous and difficult task.
Fimmel plays Marcus. This marks his first TV series role following his starring turn as Ragnar Lothbrok on History’s hit Vikings for four seasons. He has since focused on features with a couple of films in the hopper including Dreamland and El Tonto.
“I love science fiction because science fiction is casting and opening up a brand-new arena,” said Scott, who has had a lot of success in the genre on the feature side with a string of movies, from Alien and Blade Runner to The Martian. In Raised By Wolves, of which Scott will direct the first two episodes, “the way we come into this brave new world is almost like starting it from scratch with nothing; there are six embryos of children, and that’s the beginning of evolution of the new race,” he said.
The Long Dark “is kind of religious apocalypse, and I find this fascinating because it’s so close to the truth,” Scott said.
Both Raised By Wolves and The Long Dark are original ideas based on original mythologies and not on pre-existing IP.
“The slate is blended. We have a few pieces that are adaptations but quite a bit of it is actually original material,” Zucker said.
Explorers We “is an entirely different creative realm, it’s got much more of a comedic vent to it,” Zucker said. “What has been really fun in the relationship with TNT is they’ve been unrestricted in terms of their encouragement of the kind of science fiction we can bring to them.”
A number of Scott Free’s series had originated at one network which had ultimately passed on them before the company found a new home where the shows have been successful including Man In the High Castle and Strange Angel. Girls with Guns, which recently relocated from Showtime to CBS All Access, is looking to follow in their footsteps.
“You’ve got to have the gut feeling for what it is,” Scott said. “Just because somebody turns it down, that’s kind of irrelevant, you go somewhere else. You’ve got to believe in it. If you believe in it, you just don’t stop.”
Said Sheehan, “We never give up, and it’s all of us.” Added Krueger, “For better or for worse.”
Aiding Scott Free’s efforts to find new homes for their projects has been the rapid expansion of the TV marketplace.
“The business has changed so profoundly in the last 10 years, whereby a lot of the bigger, higher concept ideas that have done so amazingly on the feature side — and a lot of what we respond to, like High Castle, like The Terror— the market has now come around to them,” Sheehan said. “Back in 2010 or 2011, when a lot of the shows were originating, there wasn’t a place to put them, Amazon didn’t exist, so it’s been really remarkable to see some of the stuff that we loved at first that seemed a little crazy back in 2010, 2008 that now people are wanting.”
Because of the marketplace’s expansion, passion projects don’t have to wait that long to find new homes anymore. “Back in the day, (TV) was a cyclical business, so if there was a writer or there was a piece that you believed in you’d find that its day would return,” Zucker said. “Now, we’ve turned into an expansive business, and what’s exciting, especially trying to remain vigorously independent as we are, is that it’s just a matter of finding that one right home for it, and the homes keep turning up.”
One recent Scott Free project that didn’t sell is a 10-hour anthology Western about Kit Carson, and the company is not giving up on it.
“Talk about the one that is really good is frustrating because it’s a very well-developed piece of material about Kit Carson that for some reason or another (buyers) don’t want to do,” Scott said. “I guarantee you within the next few months somebody’s going to do a great Western and they’re going to say, ‘You know that Kit Carson.’ They should be doing this Kit Carson now.”
As Zucker noted, factoring into Scott Free’s ability to look for and find the best home for its projects is its status as an independent with limited-scope network/studio agreements, including a series of first-look deals at CBS TV Studios for broadcast projects, and the TNT pact for a sci-fi block. Scott Free’s CBS Studios agreement was recently extended.
“We’ve tried to stay pretty nimble,” Zucker said. “The CBS relationship — and we’ve had obviously a long history with them — is specific to broadcast, and we have a number of pieces set up with them this year, and it’s because it’s so deeply relationship-based. And then TNT is specific to sci-fi programming, otherwise we’re totally independent.”
Scott Free’s first ongoing series success was CBS/CBS Studios’ procedural Numbers. It was followed by the hit CBS/CBS Studios legal drama The Good Wife, which in turn spawned the CBS All Access spinoff The Good Fight, one of two Scott Free series on the CBS streaming platform along with Strange Angel. Both have been renewed for another season.
In Taylor’s Gideon Crew for NBC, using the science of social engineering, Gideon Crew leads a billionaire’s handpicked team of experts to prevent disasters, investigate conspiracies and solve crimes. The adrenaline-fueled action drama is driven by the unpredictable ways emotions can influence our decision-making and the revelation that the only emotions Gideon and his team can’t predict are their own.
Like most of Scott Free’s projects, Gideon Crew was born out of writer relationships. The company had developed with Taylor previously and “there was a mutual eagerness to find something together,” Zucker said.
He singled out the company’s 10-year relationship with the Kings, which has yielded three series, The Good Wife, which ran for seven seasons on CBS; The Good Fight; and CBS‘ BrainDead, with a possible fourth in the hopper in Girls with Guns.
“I don’t think there’s anything that’s been more pleasurable and inspiring as getting to read their work and see their work on a regular basis,” Zucker said.
In Harimoto’s Humint at CBS, a highly skilled, Army-trained human intelligence officer adept at collecting information and manipulating sources returns home to join the San Francisco PD as a homicide detective to work with her police chief father to unravel the mystery of her brother’s death.
“Honestly the challenge we’ve had in selling the broadcast is just finding writers who had enthusiasm for it. We would go there more if they were excited and there were ideas we were able to seize upon. It’s a nice business to still be in,” Zucker said.
Scott Free’s upcoming Fox/20th TV vampire drama series The Passage falls outside of the CBS TV Studios deal as the project originated as a feature at Fox 2000 with Scott Free producing.
“The independence has always been extraordinarily valuable to us because it doesn’t put any restriction around the type of project we can undertake, and I think most valuably for whomever we’re partnering with, it gives the latitude to proceed in a way that serves the best interest of the project,” Zucker said.
While Scott Free has always been independent, it does not serve as a studio; it partners with traditional studios who ultimately own the company’s series. That may change.
“If I owned the library in this building, it would be worth billions,” Scott said. “We don’t own anything, so the last part of my career is, I should try to change that format; I think if I can find an investor. The lowest, cheapest money is in development if you’re selective, if you know what you want to do; it’s nothing like making a movie independently where you can go from 100- to 200-million dollars in a heartbeat. (In TV), on writers carefully selected, you can create your own jewel box of things you want to do, and then all these platforms — including the studios who now are fundamentally platforms — are going to be looking for great material. It’s all about content, content, content, content, and we do good content.”
Fimmel, whose feature credits also include Lean on Pete, is repped by Management 360, Paradigm and attorney AJ Brandenstein.