John Wells Prods. has optioned Edward P. Jones’ Pulitzer Prize-winning novel “The Known World” and hired Anna Deavere Smith to pen the adaptation.
Published in 2004 by HarperCollins, the historical novel is based on the little-known story of free black Americans who owned slaves.
JWP is based at Warner Bros. Pictures, but the project is being developed out of the production company’s discretionary fund. Smith brought the project to Laura Holstein, exec veep of features at JWP.
Smith and Wells, who will produce the film, have a long relationship. The scribe-thesp has a recurring role as national security adviser Nancy McNally on Wells-produced skein “The West Wing.”
JWP’s most recent feature credits include Andrzej Bartkowiak’s vidgame adaptation “Doom,” which stars Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson and is in post-production for Universal Pictures. Coming this spring is Warners’ “Duma,” directed by Carroll Ballard and starring Hope Davis and Campbell Scott.
Smith is the writer and performer of “On the Road: A Search for the American Character,” a series of one-woman plays about racial tensions in the U.S. Two of those plays, “Fires in the Mirror” and “Twilight,” received Obie Awards. As an actress, Smith’s credits include “The Human Stain,” “Philadelphia,” “Dave” and “The American President.”