ABC Greenlights ‘Women of the Movement’ Limited Series From Marissa Jo Cerar, Jay-Z, Will Smith & Kapital; Gina Prince-Bythewood To Direct

Marissa Jo Cerar Jay-Z Will Smith Aaron Kaplan
(L-R) Marissa Jo Cerar, Jay-Z, Will Smith and Aaron Kaplan Courtesy of Polly Antonia Photography; Mega; AP

On the 65th anniversary of Emmett Till’s murder, ABC has given official green light to Women of the Movement, a six-episode limited series focusing on Mamie Till Mobley, who devoted her life to seeking justice for her son Emmett Till following his brutal killing in the Jim Crow South. The series, from writer Marissa Jo Cerar and a producing team that includes Jay-Z, Will Smith and Aaron Kaplan, is set to premiere in 2021.

Gina Prince-Bythewood Samuel Trotter

Gina Prince-Bythewood (The Old Guard, Shots Fired) is set to direct the first episode of the series, created by Cerar and inspired by the book Emmett Till: The Murder That Shocked the World and Propelled the Civil Rights Movement by Devery S. Anderson.

“Today marks 65 years since the tragic murder of 14-year-old Emmett Till. This limited series will shine a light on the determined pursuit of justice by Emmett’s mother, Mamie Till Mobley,” said Karey Burke, president, ABC Entertainment. “Their story involves inconceivable heartbreak and brutality but also the enduring love of a mother and her son, galvanizing a movement that carved the path for today’s racial justice movement. We are honored to be bringing their story to ABC backed by an all-star producing team.”

ABC has been high on the project, buying the pitch with a significant penalty last summer and commissioning a virtual writers room on the series in April. The network, which has a renewed female focus, has been looking to return to the tentpole event limited series field it once ruled with hugely popular programs like the 1977 Roots. Women of the Movement is envisioned as an anthology chronicling the civil rights movement as told by the women behind it.

Women of the Movement is being written/exec produced by Cerar and executive produced by Jay-Z, Jay Brown and Tyran “Ty Ty” Smith of Roc Nation; Will Smith and James Lassiter of Overbrook Entertainment; Aaron Kaplan, Dana Honor and Michael Lohmann from Kapital Entertainment; Rosanna Grace of Serendipity Group Inc.; Alex Foster and John Powers Middleton of The Middleton Media Group; and David Clark at Mazo Partners. Kapital Entertainment is the studio.

“I am thrilled to bring this project to television. It is unfortunately very timely, and my hope is to give the audience a chance to learn who Emmett Till really was – the boy, rather than the victim or the martyr – while also showcasing Mamie’s astonishing strength in the face of a mother’s worst nightmare,” said Cerar. “Telling Emmett and Mamie’s story is a responsibility I have not taken lightly since I began this journey last year, because this is more than a tragedy; it’s a story about a mother’s unwavering love of her son and her commitment to bettering the lives of all Black people. I can’t wait to start filming. With the brilliant Gina Prince-Bythewood as our director, we could not be in better hands.”

Emmett Till was only 14 in 1955 when, while visiting relatives in Mississippi, he was tortured and murdered.

Till’s mother Mamie insisted on an open-casket public funeral, with the image of the boy’s mutilated body shocking the country. She later did a very successful tour for the NAACP telling the story of her son, which is considered a tipping point for the civil rights movement.

“The story of Emmett Till and Mamie Till is not one I want to tell. It is a story I need to tell,” said Gina Prince-Bythewood. “I am grateful to be on this journey with incredible collaborators who are determined to honor this mother and son with truth, authenticity and humanity.”

Women of the Movement has been a longtime passion project for Jay-Z, Smith and Kaplan. Roc Nation, Overbrook and Kapital first set up an Emmett Till miniseries based on the same source material at HBO five years ago with a different writer.

When the project left HBO, the producers decided to focus on the women of the civil rights movement as Mamie Till was just one of many strong and important women behind the fight for equality. Cerar was brought in to write the re-conceived series.

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