The ViacomCBS-backed cable network is developing Blackbird: Lena Horne and America and will tell her story from dancing at the Cotton Club when she was 16, through World War II and stardom of the MGM years, McCarthyism, the civil rights movement and her triumphant return to Broadway.
It will explore her relationships with Paul Robeson, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Joe Louis, Billie Holiday, Hattie McDaniel, Ava Gardner and Orson Welles and look at how she navigated stardom during Jim Crow as a direct descendant of slaves and their enslavers.
The series will be produced by CBS Television Studios and Secret Hideout and Heather Kadin, who worked with Kurtzman on Star Trek: Discovery, will also exec produce alongside Lumet, who wrote Rachel Getting Married and is co-creator of CBS All Access’ The Man Who Fell to Earth and CBS’ Clarice.
It is Secret Hideout’s third project with Showtime; it also has The Comey Rule airing in September and a series commitment for The Adventures of Kavalier and Clay from Michael Chabon and Ayelet Waldman.
“Bringing my grandmother’s story to the screen required a multi-generational effort,” said Lumet, whose father was director Sidney Lumet. “Grandma passed her stories to my mother, who now passes them to me, so I may pass them to the children of our family. Lena’s story is so intimate and at the same time, it’s the story of America – America at its most honest, most musical, most tragic and most joyous. It’s crucial now. Especially now. She was the love of my life.”