Nina Jacobson and Brad Simpson’s Color Force production banner has plenty of high-profile film properties to manage these days, including the final two “Hunger Games” pics and the Warner Bros. adaptation of Pulitzer Prize-winning novel “The Goldfinch.”
But the time has also come for the movie veterans to make their first foray into TV series production. And this is no small effort. Jacobson and Simpson have teamed with Ryan Murphy to produce a 10-episode miniseries recounting the O.J. Simpson murder trial for FX.
“The People Vs. O.J. Simpson” will be the first installment of what FX hopes will be a recurring true-crime franchise for the cabler. The project will focus on the profound impact that the trial, which ran nearly 10 months, had on the country, on the media biz and on race relations. Former NFL great Simpson was ultimately acquitted in October 1995 of charges that he murdered his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend, Ronald Goldman in June 1994.
“The O.J. trial is a real before-and-after moment for our culture,” Jacobson told Variety. “Life after the trial was never the same. The show is going to be about the trial and about the system and the lawyers much more so than it is about O.J. as a person. Our goal is that from watching this series you will understand why that verdict was reached.”
The pairing with Murphy for “American Crime Story” was a matter of fortunate timing, Jacobson says. She and Simpson were already pursuing an O.J. Simpson mini after they both ready author Jeffrey Toobin’s account, “The Run of His Life,” a few years ago when the pair were on location shooting a “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” pic.
FX optioned the rights to Toobin’s book for Color Force, which inked a first-look pact with FX Prods. in 2012. Jacobson and Simpson recruited screenwriters Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski to handle the teleplay adaptation. As they got to work on the early drafts, Ryan Murphy independently began looking for a true-crime project to tackle as a franchise that would be recurring akin to his “American Horror Story” format. With the help of their mutual reps at CAA and FX, the marriage was made.
“The opportunity to get our first break in TV and have it become part of an anthology series with someone as smart and talent as Ryan is very serendipitous,” Jacobson says.
In addition to the O.J. Simpson saga, Color Force is shepherding a drama project at A&E and a few half-hour offerings for FX. In general, Color Force is focused on quality, not quantity. Getting something up and running in TV has been a big priority, even with so much traction on the feature side. Having a dual focus in film and TV affords them great options to steer material to its best possible home, Jacobson adds.
“When I watch TV now, I envy how great the stories are. You just want to have the chance to play in that sandbox,” she says. “If we fall in love with a piece of material now, we are able to direct it toward either medium. That is an option we absolutely need to have.”