The pickup of the new series, based on the acclaimed nonfiction book by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Sheri Fink, comes on the 15th anniversary of one of America’s worst natural disasters.
Five Days at Memorial, from ABC Signature, chronicles the first five days in a New Orleans hospital after Hurricane Katrina made landfall. When the floodwaters rose, the power failed and the heat climbed, exhausted caregivers were forced to make life-and-death decisions that haunted them for years to come.
Ultimately, 40 dead bodies were found in the hospital. The book explores how and why that happened. On the surface, it is a disaster thriller, but at its core is an examination of difficult moral and ethical decision-making in a time of great crisis.
Ridley and Cuse will serve as writers, executive producers and co-showrunners. Ridley wrote the pilot script and will split up the writing duties with Cuse on the other episodes. Ridley will direct the pilot and a number of subsequent episodes. Fink is set to produce.
Fink’s Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital has been sought-after IP.
In a competitive situation, the book, published by Crown in 2013, originally was acquired by Scott Rudin to turn into a movie. When the option lapsed, the rights swiftly were acquired by Ryan Murphy for a limited-series adaptation. The book was earmarked as source material for the then-in-the-works American Crime Story: Katrina installment of the Emmy-winning FX anthology series, with Murphy’s go-to actor, Sarah Paulson, attached to play Dr. Anna Pou, the doctor on duty at Memorial when the storm hit.
ACS: Katrina ultimately was shelved. When Five Days At Memorial became available again, Cuse quickly stepped in, acquiring the rights through his overall deal at ABC Signature. He then reached out to Ridley, also based at ABC Signature, to collaborate on the project together.
In Five Days at Memorial, Fink, a physician as well as a writer, takes an unflinching look at the decisions doctors made at Memorial Medical Center, a New Orleans hospital that was overwhelmed by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
The book looks to answer the question of whether medical staff at Memorial, led by Dr. Pou, euthanized critically ill patients after being trapped in the hospital for days without power. It also focuses on an attempt to prosecute Pou and two nurses for homicide after an investigation showed elevated levels of morphine and other drugs in 23 patients who had died at the hospital over the five-day period during Katrina.
Fink won the Pulitzer for a dispatch she wrote as an assignment for ProPublica and The New York Times Magazine in 2009, titled “The Deadly Choices at Memorial,” which she then expanded into a book.
Former Lost exec producer/co-showrunner Cuse serves as executive producer/showrunner on the Netflix series Locke & Key, which he also developed. He previously co-created and was executive producer/showrunner on the first two seasons of Amazon’s Jack Ryan and co-created/executive produced A&E’s Bates Motel, FX’s The Strain and USA’s Colony.
12 Years a Slave writer Ridley created and executive produced the ABC anthology series American Crime and Showtime’s limited series Guerrilla. He is attached to write, direct and executive produce an untitled musical drama series for Showtime, executive produced by Alicia Keys and La La Land’s Benj Pasek and Justin Paul