John Ridley To Write, Direct & EP Musical Drama Series For Showtime, Joining Alicia Keys & ‘La La Land’ Team

John Ridley
Photo credit: Rocco Ceselin

EXCLUSIVE: Oscar winner John Ridley (12 Years a Slave, Guerrilla) has signed on to write, direct and executive produce an untitled musical drama for Showtime, which has received a straight-to-series order. On the project, originally announced in July with a series commitment, he joins executive producers Alicia Keys and Benj Pasek and Justin Paul (La La Land). Pasek and Paul also will contribute music to the series, produced by Fox 21 Television Studios. Marc Platt (La La Land), R.J. Cutler and Adam Siegel also executive produce.

The as-yet untitled series, which centers on an emotionally complex family story that spans generations and threatens the fabric of the community in present-day Milwaukee, will be written and directed by Milwaukee native Ridley.

The American Crime creator, who began conversations with Showtime and Fox 21 about the show in the fall, succeeds original writer Kyle Jarrow. Ridley reshaped the series, which was originally set in modern-day and 1959 Detroit.

“Having worked with John Ridley many times over the years, I know firsthand how talented and fearless he is both as a writer and director,” said Gary Levine, President of Entertainment, Showtime Networks. “Combining his dramatic depth with the musical brilliance of Pasek and Paul and Alicia Keys promises a wildly original and entertaining series for Showtime.”

Ridley is under an overall deal at ABC Studios and is being loaned to Fox 21 for the Showtime series in a collaboration between the two Disney TV Studios units.

Ridley won the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay for 12 Years a Slave. He was also the creator, showrunner and director of the acclaimed ABC anthology series American Crime. Additional credits include the documentary film Let It Fall: Los Angeles 1982–1992 and the Showtime limited series Guerrilla. Ridley’s No Studios, a space for the arts and community in Milwaukee, opened in the fall of 2018.

“I couldn’t be more excited to work not only again with Gary and Showtime, but to also collaborate with the phenomenal talents of Alicia Keys, the team of Pasek and Paul, Marc Platt, and R.J. and Adam as well,” said Ridley. “I’m especially grateful for the opportunity to set the series in Milwaukee, and examine the challenges and triumphs of my hometown; a city to which I remain deeply connected.”

Fifteen-time Grammy winner Keys executive produced The Inevitable Defeat of Mister & Pete and co-produced the play Stick Fly.

Working as a team since they met as college freshmen, Pasek and Paul earned an Oscar for their work on La La Land and a Tony Award for Dear Evan Hansen, along with two Golden Globes for La La Land and The Greatest Showman and Grammys for Dear Evan Hansen and The Greatest Showman.

Platt has won two Emmys, a Tony and has been nominated for two Oscars (La La Land, Bridge of Spies).

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