The Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) has given a straight-to-series order to a new drama from “Moonlight” co-writer and executive producer Tarell Alvin McCraney with Michael B. Jordan also executive producing, Variety has learned.
Marking his first television series, McCraney will create, write, and executive produce the new coming-of-age drama, with Mike Kelley and Melissa Loy also serving as executive producers under their Page Fright production banner. Jordan will executive produce through his Outlier Productions. The series, which is yet to be titled, will be produced for OWN by Page Fright and Outlier Productions in association with Warner Horizon Scripted Television. It follows a 14-year-old prodigy from the projects haunted by the death of his closest friend who must choose between the streets that raised him or the higher education that may offer him a way out. Set in South Florida at the end of the Obama era, the series was inspired by events in McCraney’s own life.
“I wanted to explore the pivotal steps towards adulthood and identity, the ones we take when we think or feel we have no other choice,” McCraney said.
A playwright, actor, and producer, McCraney received an Academy Award along with director Barry Jenkins for best adapted screenplay for co-writing “Moonlight,” which also won best picture. The movie was based on McCraney’s semi-autobiographical script “In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue.” He also currently serves as the chair of playwriting at the Yale School of Drama.
“When Tarell shared his powerful story with us there wasn’t a dry eye in the room,” Winfrey said. “I knew this was something special that our viewers will without a doubt connect to and feel compelled to explore with us. I am honored to be working with Tarell and the rest of the producers on this project.”
McCraney’s move into television comes after Jenkins decided to dip his toes in the TV waters by writing and directing a one-hour drama series about the Underground Railroad for Amazon. That series will be based on Colson Whitehead’s best-selling book, “The Underground Railroad.” The book was an Oprah’s Book Club 2016 selection, New York Times bestseller, and the winner of the 2016 National Book Award for Fiction.
McCraney’s series will join OWN’s expanded lineup of scripted programming. The network most recently announced the new dramedy “Love Is __” from Mara Brock Akil and Salim Akil adding to its roster of current dramas “Queen Sugar” and “Greenleaf,” which have both been picked up for third seasons. The network also airs the Tyler Perry dramas “The Haves and the Have Nots” and “If Loving You is Wrong.”
McCraney is represented by CAA, Corinne Hayoun at MANAGE-MENT, and attorney Tara Kole at Gang, Tyre, Ramer & Brown. Kelley and Loy are both represented by CAA and attorney Harris Hartman at Sloane, Offer, Weber and Dern. Jordan is represented by WME and attorney Greg Slewett at Bloom Hergott.