ABC Greenlights Miniseries Based On 'A Slave In The White House' w/ 'LUV' Team Adapting

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by Tambay A. Obenson
October 1, 2013 6:24 PM
18 Comments
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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.

Paul Jennings
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. ColeTLC. 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. 

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18 Comments

  • slb | October 2, 2013 10:07 PMReply

    I see Hollywood was like, "We've got movies about slaves (Django Unchained and Twelve Years a Slave) and we've got movies about Black servants in the White House (The Butler). Let's combine the two! "Slaves in the White House"!

  • Miles Ellison | October 2, 2013 8:38 PMReply

    The construction of the handbasket for the trip to Hell is now concluded. All aboard.

  • SAVANNAH MORGAN | October 2, 2013 6:10 PMReply

    oh Lordy we feel your pain brutha. I understand Miles's sentiments as well.

  • SAVANNAH MORGAN | October 2, 2013 4:24 PMReply

    THAT'S YOU CAREY CAREY

  • CareyCarey | October 2, 2013 5:22 PM

    Hmmm... that went over my head so excusez-moi, I don't quite understand what you mean?

  • SAVANNAH MORGAN | October 2, 2013 4:23 PMReply

    *cues* Negro Spirituals for My Man 100 Grand!

  • CareyCarey | October 2, 2013 3:11 PMReply

    These are the times that try men's souls.

    Well, speaking for myself, these are the times I wish I had Andre Seewood's writing skills. I mean, not only do I admire his command of the English language and his excellent sentence structure, he pulls no punches in describing the ways of white folks. So I need him to pen these pounding thoughts in my mind of which this miniseries has provoked. Only he can do justice to the rage I feel in my soul.

    Granted, I could do my thang in my normal vernacular (read ni**erish rant) but that would probably turn some folks off - and I believe everyone should at least consider what I have to say. So woe-is-me, I am not Mr. Seewood so it goes without question that I don't possess his writing talents nor his way of speaking. However, I still harbor this burning desire to speak my mind on this new "slave" narrative, but fear of rejection is holding me back.

    But you know what, I think it's time I channel a little Shakespeare... "To Thine Own Self Be True"

    Yep, in Shakespeare's "Hamlet", Polonius has a long-winded farewell to his son, in which he summarizes, "To thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou can't not then be false to any man." All that to say, I can not tell a lie, I'm about to get funky up in here -- and some folks ain't gonna like it.

    Listen, first, I guess white folks believe most blacks are zip fools, gullible Tobys and Uncle Sams who will fall for the most obvious Okie-Dokes, huh? Well, I shouldn't blame them for their habit of using black folks because some of us have proven that we're easy pigeons for the sympathy game, especially when it's being ushered in by a white person of "standing" in the entertainment community. That's right, I'm referring to The Butlers, The Helps, The Weinsteins, The Kathryn Stocketts, The Roots and the David L. Wolpers of the world.

    Anyway, as I said, addictions are hard to kicked -- and this is about a "supply" meeting a demand. So I can't blame white folks for feeding us this new drug called Elizabeth Dowling Taylor, wrapped in Justin Wilson's tears for his deceased father. I mean, shouldn't we all become giddy-happy, not to mention appreciative, upon hearing the news that two young brothas have been given the opportunity to write and direct these must see moments in U.S History.

    Well, lets look at a few of the fine details. First, "LUV" was not what I would consider a great film. In fact, in my opinion, it was... well... for lack of a better word, over-the-top and at times unbelievable. Okay, some will disagree but I'll save that debate for another time. Now we have its writer and director at the helm of another white man's story disguised as a slave's narrative. Come on now, please spare me the insult and pimp-slap of seeing a miniseries on a racist president and his po' impoverished wife who had to sell their slaves after his passing. Seriously, miss me with the back story of the 10 year old mulatto slave ( mother African and American Indian, father a white English trader) who after kowtowing, lifting that barge and tottin' that bale for 8 years in the Big White House, went on to write a memoir, while feeding me the front and center story of The Help, The Butlers, Amistad and Lincoln all rolled into one.

    Granted, some people love to see the tears of butlers and maids as mean racist white men debate over the issue of slavery. Some believe it's great entertainment seeing Kunta Kinte, The Butler and Paul Jennings recount the good ol' days of white superiority and white saviors and blacks being thrown a bone. I mean, wasn't it a wonderful experience watching Forest Whitaker finally get a pay raise after working in the White House for a thousand years? Who didn't shed a few tears upon seeing him persevere through seeing his mother raped and his father shot in the head, to one day see the first black president climb to the big white house? And who didn't laugh and sing "Oh Happy Day" when Octavia Spencer (Minny) told the rather incendiary story of how she gained sweet revenge by serving the insolent Hilly a chocolate pie with her dookie being the main ingredient. Oh lord, the drummer got some that time, but...

    Are dookie pies, the last laughs, sympathetic tears and white saviors the foundations for a great film watching experience? In my not so humble opinion, from my perspective, I don't believe so.

  • . | October 3, 2013 10:18 AM

    .

  • THE TRUTH | October 2, 2013 5:33 PM

    CareyCarey, you my folks!

  • VM | October 2, 2013 11:24 AMReply

    This actually sounds boring tbh. 12 hours? Really?

  • Becca | October 1, 2013 10:16 PMReply

    congrats, Sheldon!

  • Wordblaze | October 1, 2013 9:33 PMReply

    Slavery.
    Zombies.
    I don't know which trend I want to go away more.
    I guess it's time for a Slave Zombie flick?
    *shrugs*

  • Miles Ellison | October 1, 2013 10:43 PM

    Only if the zombie slaves are cross-dressing vampire sex addicts.

  • Accidental Visitor | October 1, 2013 9:13 PMReply

    Cue Carey Carey

    Sounds like an ambitious miniseries for network TV. Yeah, that used to be their thing but they gave that stuff up a long time ago.

    I don't have a problem with the subject matter. But I have my concenrs regarding the folks who are writing and directing.

  • Miles Maker | October 1, 2013 7:38 PMReply

    I'm feeling mixed emotions here.
    Very happy for Candis & co. and of course Justin Wilson,
    weary AND wary of the resurging slave narrative. It's as if we're being conditioned to stomach the imagery and digest an inevitable digression. Troubling to say the least.

  • urbanauteur | October 1, 2013 7:12 PMReply

    Since Hollywhite have this "white house fix" why not do something on Bro.Benjamin Banneker?

  • THE TRUTH | October 1, 2013 6:55 PMReply

    DAMN. Can we get some movies not about slavery and n*ggas in dresses?
    I'll pass.
    No thanks.

  • scripttease | October 2, 2013 12:15 PM

    I know that's right. I'd rather watch white folks all day long, until we can come up with more variety. I don't need someone to tell me the main character is black, I'll figure that out myself.

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