HBO Orders 'Criminal Justice' Drama Pilot Starring James Gandolfini, From Steven Zaillian & Richard Price

The Sopranos star James Gandolfini is a step closer to returning to HBO‘s drama lineup with a starring role in the network’s Criminal Justice. HBO has given a pilot order to the drama project, written by Oscar nominee Richard Price (The Color Of Money) and to be directed by Oscar-wining writer Steven Zaillian (Schindler’s List). Criminal Justice is a New York-set crime drama loosely based on the acclaimed 2008 BBC series of the same name created by Peter Moffat. Joining the ensemble cast led by Gandolfini are Rizwan Ahmed, Bill Camp, Peyman Moadi and Poorna Jagannathan.

The original series consisted of two five-episode seasons, each chronicling the journey of a person charged with murder through the justice system, and each featuring new characters and cast. HBO’s version follows the plot of the first season of the British series, which starred Ben Whishaw as Ben Coulter, a man who takes his father’s cab for a drive and picks up a party girl who takes him to her apartment for a drunken and drug-filled night out. When he wakes up in the morning, Ben finds the girl stabbed to death and, though he can’t remember committing the crime, he is soon charged with it. (Watch a trailer below) The season earned Criminal Justice BAFTA Awards for best drama and best writer, three Royal Television Society Awards and an International Emmy.

I’ve learned that in the U.S. version, the young man is an American-born Pakistani named Naz (Ahmed). Gandolfini plays Jack Stone, a disheveled jailhouse lawyer wearing cheap suits and sandals, who trolls for clients at police precincts. That’s where he sees Naz in a holding cell and appoints himself his attorney. (The character is expected to continue if the series is renewed for additional seasons.) Camp plays the lead detective on the case; Jagannathan — repped by Hartig Hilepo and Smith Talent Group — and Moadi play Naz’s parents. (more…)

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