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John Ridley on ABC’s ‘American Crime’: ‘They Told Me to Be Bold’

John Ridley, the Oscar-winning screenwriter of “12 Years a Slave,” definitely has “a lot going on” currently — and an announcement Tuesday at the Television Critics Assn. press tour put even more attention on the scribe.

ABC Entertainment Group president Paul Lee disclosed that the Alphabet has signed an overall deal with Ridley. The network has made an 11-episode commitment for Ridley’s “American Crime,” starring Timothy Hutton and Felicity Huffman, with shooting starting July 28 in Austin through mid-November.

“Even though it’s set in California, we had to shoot in Texas because of the incentives,” Ridley told Variety.

The series examines the impact of a racially charged trial on the key players. Ridley is teamed with Michael McDonald, the former ABC Studios drama chief, and will exec produce along with writing and directing some of the segments.

Ridley said Lee gave him the greenlight to shoot the pilot on the morning after the Oscars on March 2. He also met with Hutton and Huffman that day and began shooting on March 10.

“Films are terrific, but they can take 10 years to pull together,” Ridley noted. “When they say go in TV, you really do go.”

Ridley noted that his work on Jimi Hendrix biopic “Jimi: All Is by My Side” had helped persuade ABC to go ahead with “American Crime.” “They told me to be bold,” he added.

12 Years a Slave” and “All Is By My Side” premiered on back-to-back nights at the Toronto Film Festival last September.

“That was an unusual confluence for me,”Rildey added. “With ‘All Is by My Side’ coming out in September and with getting the order for ‘American Crime,’ I feel I’ve now got a lot going on.”

Ridley’s TV credits include “The Wanda Sykes Show,” “Barbershop” and “Third Watch.”

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