'Heart of Darkness' to be 'Shield' successor

FX is stepping up its bid to find the successor to “The Shield,” teaming with helmer Pete Berg (“The Kingdom”) and scribe Sheldon Turner (“X-Men: Magneto”) for a dark cop drama with echoes of “Heart of Darkness.”

Untitled project revolves around two law-enforcement agents who are undercover in the world of the Russian Mafia. One is a Kurtz-like figure who’s gone off the grid; the other is an NYPD officer sent in to find the potentially renegade agent.

“They’re two freight trains on a collision course,” said Justin Levy, VP and head of television for Film 44, the shingle run by Berg and Sarah Aubrey.

Turner, who’s finished a first draft of the script, will serve as an exec producer on the project, along with Berg and Aubrey. Berg — who exec produces NBC’s critically beloved “Friday Night Lights” — may direct the pilot should it be greenlit and if his schedule allows.

Turner said he was attracted to the notion of reinventing the cop genre for FX, a network that did just that with “The Shield.”

“You’ve seen lots of undercover shows and films before, but there’s a great opportunity to take the well-worn cliches, undermine them and pull the rug out from underneath them,” he said. “This is what the real world of undercover is like.”

One twist is that the cop who’s gone rogue may end up being more likable than the so-called good cop sent in to find him, Turner added.

Levy credits FX development exec Matt Cherniss with the broad concept for the show. “He came to us with the idea, and we went and got Sheldon,” he said, adding that the idea for the show was a good match for all parties involved.

“I’ve always imagined the Film 44 brand as adrenaline and authenticity, which matches what FX is all about,” he said. “And Sheldon is the guy to go to when you want (that kind of writing). He’s got it in spades.”

Turner has developed material for FX before, writing serial killer pilot “The Gentleman.” On the feature front, his credits also include “The Longest Yard” and the upcoming pics “Orbit” at Fox 2000 and “Two Minutes to Midnight” (with Jennifer Klein). He’s also writing Warner Bros.’ Enron pic, which Leonardo DiCaprio is producing.

Film 44 has a first-look deal with Universal Media Studios, but that studio isn’t involved in the FX project; the cabler is developing it inhouse.

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