Maybe we can thank a combination of Lee Daniels' The Butler and what I've fondly referred to as "slave movie fever," for this one. One blockbuster idea will often likely lead to a handful of facsimiles by others. This is how the business works folks, in case you weren't already aware.
We just learned that ABC has greenlit a 12-hour miniseries that will be based on the non-fiction novel, A Slave In The White House, which tells Paul Jennings' story - born into slavery on the plantation of James and Dolley Madison in Virginia, later becoming part of President Madison's staff at the White House. When he finally got his freedom, later in his life, he would give an aged and impoverished Dolley Madison, his former owner, money from his own pocket, write the first White House memoir (A Colored Man's Reminiscences Of James Madison) and see his sons fight with the Union Army in the Civil War.
He died a free man at age 75.
The book, written by Elizabeth Dowling Taylor, is considered a well-researched account of not only Jennings' life (based on correspondence, legal documents, and journal entries), but also a portrait of the times in which Jennings lived - slavery in the nineteenth century.
Sheldon Candis (who made his feature film debut with LUV, starring Common), and Justin Wilson (who co-wrote the screenplay for LUV with Candis) will write and co-executive produce the miniseries for ABC, with Deborah Spera and Maria Grasso’s One-Two Punch Prods executive producing.
Candis will also direct.
As the press release states, the deal with ABC comes at a bittersweet moment for Justin Wilson, who agreed to terms on the project on the day his father suddenly passed away, while father and son were hiking the Inca Trail together in Peru, when Gerald Wilson developed complications from the altitude and tragically died of a pulmonary edema.
"Since A Slave In The White House is a father and son story at heart, it carries even more resonance for me now," said Justin Wilson. "I’ll be dedicating the show to my dad. I’m just grateful that he was able to share in a little bit of the joy of this success that he’d always desired for me as a writer."
Candis recently directed the viral short film Crooked Smile for Jay-Z’s RocNation artist J. Cole & TLC. The short film was inspired by the true story of Aiyana Stanley Jones, a seven-year old girl who was tragically killed during a police raid in Detroit in 2010.
The deal marks Spera and Grasso’s sixth sale this season, with a seventh pending.