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Common to Star in ‘Black Samurai’ TV Series (EXCLUSIVE)

Common is set to star in a television adaptation of “Black Samurai,” Variety has learned exclusively.

The TV project, currently in development, is based on Marc Olden’s 1974 book series, which inspired the 1977 film of the same name. Wu-Tang Clan’s RZA is attached as an exec producer.

Producers are currently shopping the project. Once a network is attached, the search for a writer and director will begin. With Common attached to star, the hot project is already garnering much interest.

“Black Samurai” follows the story of Robert Sand (played by Common) who is rescued by a Japanese samurai master and trained for seven years. After suffering from vicious racism in the military, and seeing his teacher and fellow samurai killed before his eyes by terrorists, Robert Sand becomes a killing machine, out to destroy the corrupt powers who had taken the lives of his friends.

Producer Andre Gaines landed the rights to the book, and is exec producing the potential series, marking the first television show to be developed under his Cinemation banner.

“Robert Sand is like black Jason Bourne. Black Samurai is one of the most unique, timely and fun experiences I’ve ever read, while at the same time tackling some serious subjects around race and diversity,” said Gaines. “With ‘John Wick 2’ and ‘Suicide Squad’ coming up, Common was an obvious choice for the role, and I’m thrilled to have him on board. I believe he’s the next great American actor.”

Along with Gaines and RZA, Wu Films’ Mitchell Diggs and Diane Crafford are also exec producing.

I could not be more pleased that such incredible talent is attached to Marc’s work,” said Crafford. “This series has always been one of my favorites and Robert Sand, the Black Samurai, is a fascinating character who I can’t wait to see brought to life on the screen.”

Speaking of RZA, Gaines commented, “There is a long tradition and storied relationship between hip-hop and martial arts. Having RZA and the WuTang brand on board to executive produce will validate the series even more and mobilize the fans.” 

The deal is the latest project based on Olden’s work, following “Poe Must Die,” which is being developed as a film trilogy by Idris Elba’s Green Door Pictures.

Aside from “Suicide Squad” and “John Wick 2,” Common’s acting career is booming. He was recently seen in the latest “Barbershop” flick and NBC’s “The Wiz Live” musical. On the producing side, he’s attached as an EP on a Showtime drama from Lena Waithe. He won the Oscar in 2015, along with John Legend, for “Glory” from “Selma.”

Common and RZA are repped by CAA. Gaines is repped by Ethan Cohan, Todd Weinstein and Gordon Bobb at Del, Shaw, Moonves, Tanaka, Finkelstein and Lezcano. The deal was negotiated by Paradigm, on behalf of Liza Fleissig of the Liza Royce Agency.

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