Carlton Cuse, Randall Wallace partner on history tale
“Lost” exec producer Carlton Cuse is back in business with ABC. Cuse has partnered with “Secretariat” helmer Randall Wallace to write and exec produce an ambitious drama project set during Civil War for the Alphabet and ABC Studios.
“Point of Honor” has a hefty script commitment from the net, which is eyeing it as a major event series. Given the timing of the deal, however, “Honor” will be developed on its own timetable outside the upcoming pilot season fray.
Wallace and Cuse are about to begin work on the script. Wallace, whose credits include the screenplay for “Braveheart,” is also set to helm the pilot.
Cuse was inspired to tackle a Civil War-set project after he took a trip to Washington, D.C., with his family as he decompressed from the end of “Lost” last spring. He found himself engrossed in the text of Abraham Lincoln’s second inauguration speech, which is printed on a wall at the Lincoln Memorial.
Cuse was impressed by the drama of the situation Lincoln faced after his re-election during wartime, and he noted the parallels between a nation torn asunder then by political, economic and ideological differences and today’s mercilessly partisan atmosphere.Wallace, meanwhile, had long been working on ideas for a Civil War feature project. The two were introduced as possible collaborators on the series by their mutual rep, WME’s Ari Greenburg.
It was a good match, according to Cuse and Wallace, because they have remarkably similar instincts. They’ve been working together on the concept for the show since September.
“We just clicked,” Cuse said. “We found that the ideas we’d both been working on fit together incredibly well.”
The two are keeping mum on details other than to say it will be a story focusing more on fictional characters than on historical figures. It’s envisioned as a serialized saga with a clear-cut “beginning, middle and end,” Cuse said — a storytelling form he knows well from “Lost.”
Cuse and Wallace were quick to praise ABC execs for their willingness to back them on what will no doubt be a challenging project.
“The studio and network understood our ambition to do a show that is very different from anything on TV right now, and instead of running from it, they embraced it,” Cuse said.
The “raw facts” of the Civil War are compelling all on their own, Wallace noted, but the goal is to bring the era alive for viewers, not to recount every step on the battlefield.
“We are dramatists, not historians. We want to let the audience experience what it was like to be in these times and live through these dramatic experiences,” Wallace said.
Cuse cited Wallace’s work on “Braveheart,” for which he earned an original screenplay Oscar nom, as “a perfect example of how to take historical events and connect them to fictional characters.”
Wallace was steeped in the legacy of the Civil War during his years growing up in Tennessee and Virginia. In his own family tree, there were those who fought for the Union and those who went to battle for the Confederacy, he said.
“For Southerners, the Civil War is a living thing — it’s a war that was fought where we live,” Wallace said. It’s such a sprawling history that it lends itself to the longer treatment a TV series offers.
“In the years that I worked on it as a feature film, the big problem I had was that you just can’t get your arms around it all,” Wallace said.
For Cuse, the opportunity to time-travel back to the mid-19th century marked the first TV series idea that he sparked to since he wrapped his six-season run as co-showrunner of “Lost” in May.
In addition to revisiting the Civil War, Wallace is prepping an indie feature set in the Revolutionary War era, “Love and Honor.”