Fox raps up biopic deal

Web focusing on minority themes, talent

Some serious hip hop flava could soon be coming to Fox Broadcasting: The web is developing a biopic of rap mogul Russell Simmons which would also serve as a history of hip-hop culture.

Pic is one of several movies, minis and specs in the works at Fox involving minority themes or talent. Other well-known African-American producers/directors working on FBC projects include Suzanne De Passe, Thomas Carter and Master P.

Meanwhile, CBS has inked a talent holding deal with former “ER” star Gloria Reuben. Reuben won’t appear on CBS for at least another year as part of an agreement she made with “ER’s” producers to ankle the series early. The Eye has recently struck development deals with several other high-profile African-American thesps, including comics Steve Harvey, Mark Curry and Duane Martin.

CBS, FBC and other nets have been under intense pressure in recent months to add diversity to their primetime skeds, with the NAACP threatening a network boycott if execs don’t demonstrate a willingness to diversify.

Simmons, the co-founder of Def Jam Records and producer of features such as “How to Be a Player,” “Gridlock’d” and “Krush Groove,” will be involved in the hip hop history project via his Def Pictures. While still in the early stages of development, the project is likely to be a four-hour mini, though no final decision on length is expected until FBC officially greenlights the project. Music is expected to be an integral part of the pic, which will be co-produced by Fox Television Studios.

Other projects from minority talent in the works at FBC include:

  • A private eye skein to be created and exec produced by Tyger Williams, co-producer of “Menace II Society.”

  • Filmmaker Rick Famiyuwa is in development on a sitcom based on his coming-of-age pic “The Wood.”

  • De Passe is developing a television adaptation of “A Hope in the Unseen,” the Pulitzer Prize-winning book about a black man’s cultural alienation while at Brown University.

  • Carter, already working on a Muhammad Ali biopic for Fox, will also direct “Seven Days of Absence,” which ponders a world in which African-Americans suddenly disappeared.

  • As previously reported, scribe John Ridley (“Three Kings,” “Third Watch”) has a deal to create a new drama for FBC called “Dead Girl.”
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