Actor teams with network on 'Untouchable'

Showtime is teaming with Forest Whitaker to produce its own take on an American gangster.

Cabler is developing “Mr. Untouchable,” a drama series that will chronicle the true story of flashy Harlem heroin dealer Leroy “Nicky” Barnes. Barnes is portrayed by Cuba Gooding Jr. in the Ridley Scott pic “American Gangster,” which opens today.

Showtime project has no official connection to Scott’s pic, nor is Gooding involved. Instead, “Mr. Untouchable” is based on helmer Marc Levin’s just-released Magnolia documentary of the same name.

Whitaker and Levin will exec produce the Showtime skein, with David Burke (“Law & Order: Special Victims Unit”) serving as writer and exec producer.

Series will tell the story of how Barnes built a drug empire in the 1970s that rivaled that of the Italian Mafia. It will show how he rose to great heights, but with his success coming at the expense of his Harlem community. Skein will also detail the government’s war on drugs and how it failed for years to bring Barnes down.

Whitaker, who won the Oscar for “The Last King of Scotland,” has collaborated with Showtime before, most recently as an actor in the 2003 telepic “Deacons for Defense.” In 2001, he exec produced and starred in the Anne Rice mini “Feast of All Saints,” while in 1994 he starred in the pic “Lush Life.”

Last month, Whitaker set up a drama project at FX. His upcoming features include “Winged Creatures,” “The Night Watchman” and “Repossession Mambo.”

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