Julia Roberts is reuniting with Mr Robot creator Sam Esmail on another podcast adaptation as she is attached to star, alongside Sean Penn, Armie Hammer and Joel Edgerton, in a remake of Slate’s Watergate audio series Slow Burn.
The NBCUniversal Content Studios division is taking out the project to premium and streaming platforms with talent attached in a similar fashion to the way it did with Dr Death, featuring Jamie Dornan, Alec Baldwin and Christian Slater, Dirty John, with Connie Britton, who was in negotiations, and Homecoming with Roberts. All of the above projects are based on podcasts, an important source of IP to the studio.
Robbie Pickering, who has worked on Mr Robot and Search Party, will serve as showrunner and executive produce along with Esmail and Chad Hamilton under their production banner Esmail Corp, via their overall deals with UCP. Roberts will executive produce under her banner Red Om Films along with co-executive producers Lisa Gillan and Marisa Yeres Gill. Anonymous Content and Slate’s Gabriel Roth and Josh Levin will also executive produce. Leon Neyfakh, who created the podcast, will consult on the project.
Joel Edgerton and his brother Nash Edgerton, who exec produced and directed Mr. Inbetween, will direct and executive produce the series.
The podcast, which launched in 2017, has already been turned into a six-part docuseries for Epix, produced by Left/Right.
Gaslit is a modern take on Watergate that focuses on the untold stories and forgotten characters of the scandal, from Nixon’s bumbling, opportunistic subordinates, to the deranged zealots aiding and abetting their crimes, to the tragic whistleblowers who would eventually bring the whole rotten enterprise crashing down.
Roberts plays Martha Mitchell, a celebrity Arkansan socialite and wife to Nixon’s loyal Attorney General, John Mitchell, who has a big personality and an even bigger mouth. Despite her party affiliation, she’s the first person to publicly sound the alarm on Nixon’s involvement in Watergate, causing both the Presidency and her personal life to unravel. Penn plays her husband John Mitchell. As Attorney General, Mitchell is Nixon’s most trusted advisor and best friend. Temperamental, foulmouthed and ruthless – yet hopelessly in love with his famously outspoken wife – he’ll be forced to choose between Martha and the President.
Hammer plays John Dean, the young White House Counsel torn between his ambition and his struggle with whether he can lie to protect the President. Edgerton will play G. Gordon Liddy, Korean War veteran, former FBI agent and chief operative of Nixon’s “Plumbers” unit, tasked with plugging embarrassing leaks in the wake of the Pentagon Papers.
It is Esmail’s latest project with UCP; he is also working on dark comedy series The Resort and Peacock’s Battlestar Galactica, having just wrapped the final season of Mr Robot on USA Network.
“We are so excited to announce our next collaboration with Sam as we prepare to bring Gaslit to market,” said Dawn Olmstead, President, UCP. “Sam and Esmail Corp have introduced the world to some of the most talented creatives in front of and behind the camera, and this project with Robbie at the helm is the next in the lineage of outstanding series from this team. We are also thrilled to be partnering with Julia once again and welcome Sean, Armie, Joel and Nash to UCP.”
“Now more than ever, truth is absolutely stranger than fiction,” added Esmail. “When Robbie first told me about the Slow Burn podcast, I devoured it instantly. The second I finished it, I felt compelled to bring this story to television especially after watching the cowardice on display during the recent impeachment hearings. To help realize this important chapter in our country’s history, my first call was to the brilliant Julia Roberts. After her captivating performance in Homecoming, I knew Julia was the only person who could tackle the complex role of Martha Mitchell and lead our stellar cast in adapting this bizarre and controversial narrative.”
Roberts is repped by CAA and Hirsch Wallerstein. Penn is repped by CAA and Hirsch Wallerstein. Hammer is repped by WME, Relevant and Sloane, Offer, Weber and Dern. Edgerton is repped by CAA, Anonymous Content, and Hirsh Wallerstein. Nash Edgerton is repped by ICM and Hirsch Wallerstein. Slate is repped by WME. Neyfakh is repped by Underground.