The series, which ran on ITV predecessor Thames Television between 1978 and 1992, starred Leo McKern as Horace Rumpole, an elderly barrister in London who defended a weird and wonderful mix of clients. It started as a radio play on the BBC before making the move to television.
The reboot was revealed at a Deadline-moderated Banff Connect event in London by Polly Williams, eOne’s head of scripted development in the UK. The Designated Survivor studio has a first-look deal with Mortimer’s company, which she runs with her husband Alessandro Nivola.
Williams told Deadline that Mortimer has “reimagined” the series and her and her sister Rosie were writing the script. “They have written a very modern take on Rumpole. I’m very excited to see how that turns out,” she added.
Williams used the example of King Bee, which is also working on an adaptation of Laura Sims’ novel Looker and an event series based on Ann Patchett’s novel State of Wonder with eOne, as an example of working with talent at an early stage. “Emily is quite rare, as is Alessandro, because although they’re actors, they’re both producers and have made some good indie films and she wrote Doll & Em for Sky and HBO. She’s got great connections and a network of talent that they can access. They wanted to grow their business so we partnered with them,” she said.
Working with talent at an early stage was the main topic of the panel session – The Early Edge – which was held at Canada House in London.
“The way we work with producers is if there’s someone that we’re excited about, a writer that we love, or a director coming in with a piece that they really want to do, we’re willing to go out there and develop at a very early stage,” Williams added.
This was echoed by Hilary Salmon, Head of Drama, London for BBC Studios. Salmon has worked on series including Luther with Idris Elba and was a consulting producer on HBO’s The Night Of, having worked on the original series Criminal Justice with Peter Moffat.
She said that as the likes of Elba and Riz Ahmed, as well as Phoebe Waller-Bridge, become global superstars, in part thanks to the rise of the global streaming services and U.S. predilection for British talent, it has opened the doors to young talent, particularly writers in the UK.
Salmon revealed that Ahmed’s forthcoming series Englistan, a nine-part series that tells the story of three generations of a British Pakistani family, was first pitched to her when Ahmed was in the pilot of Jack Thorne-penned series The Fades. “Riz was in the pilot… he didn’t make the series, but he was talking about a show that he was really passionate about making [Englistan] and it’s taken six years to get on screen. It’s important to backing someone’s passion,” she added.
Salmon is also exec producing 61st Street with Moffat and Michael B. Jordan’s Outlier Society for AMC. The series, which is set in present-day Chicago, follows Moses Johnson, a promising high school athlete, who is swept up into the infamously corrupt Chicago criminal justice system. Taken by the police as a gang member, he soon finds himself in the eye of the storm as police and prosecutors seek revenge for the death of an officer during a drug bust gone wrong. A timely examination of the institutional racism plaguing cities nationwide, “61st Street” plumbs the depths of systemic abuse happening in some of the country’s most vulnerable communities.
AMC has opened a writers’ room and the project is part of the broadcaster’s scripts to series model
Salmon said that it came out of her long-term relationship with Moffat. “In a way you can see how [61st Street] is the same sort of territory as Criminal Justice and The Night Of,” she added.
Elsewhere, on the panel, which was designed to promote the Banff Media Festival in June, were Moreyba Bidessie, director of scripted development and sales, A+E Networks, Carlo Dusi, EVP Commercial Strategy, Scripted, Red Arrow Studios International and Julie Meldal-Johnsen, EVP Global Content, ITV Global Entertainment, who all discussed the challenges of working with talent and securing projects at an earlier stage than ever before.