UCP has put in development Super Freak (working title), a limited series based on the life of musician Rick James, from writer Randy McKinnon (Chambers) and Nick Antosca (The Act, Channel Zero). Ty James, daughter of the late Rick James, will executive produce the project. UCP, a division of Universal Studio Group, will serve as the studio. No network or streaming service is currently attached.
Written and executive produced by McKinnon, Super Freak (wt) is described as a funkadelic mix of music biopic and true crime. It chronicles Rick James’ plans for a comeback in the early 1990s amidst a heated trial that threatened to destroy his legacy. The story will touch on timely themes of race, privilege, and the gray area of image vs. reality for celebrities.
Antosca will executive produce via his Eat the Cat banner under his overall deal with UCP, alongside Alex Hedlund. Best-selling author and award-winning reporter Mike Sager will also executive produce. Sager first met Rick James in 1995, while on assignment from Rolling Stone, for a profile entitled “The Rise and Fall of a Super Freak.” Sager and James remained close friends until James’ death in 2004.
“We are truly ecstatic about this new project with UCP and extremely excited to work with the writer Randy McKinnon,” said Ty James. “We are confident he can give the fans exactly what they have been waiting on, plus some. This will be a magic carpet ride, with ups and downs, joys and pain — a story of perseverance and tenacity, with the music being the greatest navigation system. Get ready for the ride of your lives — the story of James A. Johnson, AKA Rick James!”
McKinnon is writing and executive producing Wild Rabbit, a one-hour drama set at Hulu, with Richard Brown’s Passenger, Fremantle and 20th Television. He also is adapting Justin A. Reynold’s romance novel Opposite of Always for Paramount Players and wrote the Disney+ feature Safety which Reginald Hudlin is directing. He is also adapting American-Nigerian chef Kwame Onwuachi’s memoir, Notes from a Young Black Chef starring Lakeith Stanfield at A24, and serves as co-producer on the Apple+ TV series War of The Worlds. He was most recently a staff writer on Netflix’s Chambers. McKinnon is repped by Grandview and Jackoway Tyerman.
Super Freak is the latest real-life story to inspire a TV series from UCP. The studio is currently developing Robin Veith’s Candy (wt), based on the true story of killer Candy Montgomery, starring Elisabeth Moss and executive produced by Antosca and Hedlund; the untitled Jan Broberg project, also executive produced by Antosca; Peacock’s limited series Dr. Death, based on the hit Wondery podcast of the same name from executive producer Patrick Macmanus; The Life and Death of John Allen Chau (wt), also from Macmanus; and The Girl From Plainville from Macmanus and Liz Hannah, which has been picked up to series at Hulu starring Elle Fanning.