Vince Gilligan, Michelle MacLaren Developing Jonestown Limited Series for HBO

Vince Gilligan Michelle MacLaren
Courtesy of Vince Gilligan & Michelle MacLaren

“Breaking Bad” executive producers Vince Gilligan and Michelle MacLaren are reuniting to develop a limited series about cult leader Jim Jones and the Peoples Temple for HBO.

“Raven,” developed with Sony Pictures Television, will follow the story of the Peoples Temple from its idealistic origins to it tragic ending in Jonestown in 1978. Gilligan, MacLaren and Academy Award winner Octavia Spencer will executive produce the series with Gilligan writing and MacLaren directing. Reilly Smith will serve as co-producer.

Gilligan will produce through his High Bridge Productions and MacLaren through her MacLaren Entertainment.

Founded in the 1950s in Indiana by Jones, the Peoples Temple of the Disciples of Christ blended a message of socialism with Christian teachings. The organization eventually moved to California, spreading throughout the state. Under intense media scrutiny, Jones and many of his followers fled to a settlement in Guyana in 1977. On Nov. 18, 1978, members of the Peoples Temple killed Rep. Leo Ryan, journalists traveling with him and members of the group attempting to leave Guyana with the Congressman, who had visited Jonestown to investigate allegations of abuse of group members there. That evening, Jones and his followers engaged in a mass suicide; 918 people died, among them 276 children.

The story of Jonestown was previously adapted into the 1980 television miniseries “Guyana Tragedy,” starring Powers Boothe as Jones.

The HBO miniseries marks the first project together for Gilligan and MacLaren since working together on AMC’s “Breaking Bad.” Gilligan currently serves as executive producer on “Breaking Bad” prequel “Better Call Saul” for AMC. MacLaren has served as a director on “Game of Thrones,” “The Walking Dead” and David Simon’s “The Deuce.” She is also set to direct the feature-film adaptation of Kristin Hannah’s “The Nightingale.”

Spencer will next appear in the Fox drama “Hidden Figures,” about a group of African-American women working in the early days of NASA.

ICM Partners represents both Gilligan and MacLaren. Gilligan is represented by law firm Del Shaw Moonves Tanaka Finkelstein & Lezcano. MacLaren is represented by law firm Stone Genow Smelkinson Binder & Christopher.

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  1. Ken says:

    Awesome ! Jonestown is one of the great American tragedies…There have been a few films, but it has never been done right. I hope they use all the new research f.e. from the San Diego University. All the tape recordings still exist. I read some of the transcripts & they are breathtaking. They should just stay as close as possible to the facts and characters and don’t invent anything. The transcripts already read like a screenplay. And it’s important that they get Jim Jones’ strange ideology right: Yes, he started out as a pastor, but he ended up being an utopian socialist or Marxist. Maybe he never was a true believer and used the pastor role only to con people into compliance ? It was a perversion of religion, an incredible abuse of power & one of the deadliest cults in history. Jones was a strange bastard: He was controlling, power-hungry, bisexual, paranoid, abusive and addicted to drugs, but at the same time he had real charisma and could convince people to give him all their possessions. He systematically took all the money & freedom from his ‘sheep’ away, step by step, and created something like a Gulag in the jungle, but sold it to them as a new paradise. This is such an incredible story & very timely. It’s about the crazy thing people are willing to do if they believe in an utopian cause and a false leader. I hope they do it right this time !

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