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Sundance Channel orders 1st scripted series

Cabler gives 6-episode order to drama from producer Mark Johnson

Sundance Channel is diving into the scripted series business, giving a six-episode order to drama series “Rectify” from “Breaking Bad” producer Mark Johnson.

The series, created by writer-thesp Ray McKinnon, was originally developed at Sundance’s sibling cabler, AMC, three years ago. Sundance began eyeing the project a few months ago after making the strategic decision to field more original scripted material.

The order for “Rectify” was unveiled Monday by Sundance Channel g.m. Sarah Barnett. She said the move came in part because of the cabler’s success with longform projects, including last year’s “Carlos,” the biopic miniseries of terrorist Carlos the Jackal that nabbed an Emmy nom for star Edgar Ramirez. Another mini, “Appropriate Adult,” starring Dominic West as a serial killer, bows Dec. 10.

“It’s made us realize that there’s great opportunity for the Sundance brand to distinguish itself in the arena of scripted storytelling. It makes great sense to us,” Barnett told Variety.

“Rectify” revolves around a man who is released from a Death Row prison sentence in Georgia after being exonerated for rape and murder by DNA evidence. He returns to his hometown but struggles to rebuild his life when he realizes that some people still think he’s guilty.Thesp Walton Goggins had been attached when the project was at AMC, but he’s now a regular on FX’s “Justified.”

Johnson will exec produce through his Gran Via Prods. with McKinnon and Gran Via’s Melissa Bernstein.

Barnett said Sundance would look for more scripted material on a project by project basis.

“There’s so much interesting work being done in the scripted arena in TV we felt that Sundance Channel should be a part of that work,” she said.

AMC’s growth with original skeins “Mad Men,” “Breaking Bad” and “The Walking Dead” has helped guide Sundance’s recent moves. “We’re very much looking to the trail they’ve blazed,” Barnett said.

McKinnon’s script was so strong that Sundance was comfortable rolling the dice on a series order, Barnett said. Johnson also continued to champion the project after it didn’t move past the script stage at AMC.

“AMC always made clear how much they liked it, so it’s wonderful that it was able to go to a sister company,” Johnson said.

There’s no target airdate or start of production for “Rectify,” which will be wholly owned by Sundance. The plan is for the show to bow simultaneously on Sundance’s channels in the U.S., Europe and Asia.

McKinnon is repped by CAA, Anonymous Content and attorney Bill Skrzyniarz. Gran Via is repped by UTA.

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