The series is based on the award-winning novel “The Good Lord Bird” by James McBride, and will star Ethan Hawke as 19th-century abolitionist John Brown. Hawke is also slated to co-write and executive produce the project alongside author and producer Mark Richard (“Hell on Wheels”), with “American Crime Story” director Anthony Hemingway in place to direct and executive produce.
“Good Lord Bird” is told from the point of view of Onion, an enslaved teenager who becomes a member in Brown’s motley family during the time of Bleeding Kansas, eventually participating in the famous 1859 raid on the Army depot at Harpers Ferry. Brown’s raid failed to initiate the slave revolt he intended, but was the instigating event that started the Civil War.
“’Good Lord Bird’ is one of my favorite books, told with wit, grace and wisdom by the great James McBride,” Hawke said. “Bringing this story to the screen has been a passion project of mine, and I am incredibly fortunate to have partners who are equally enthusiastic and are making it a reality – my wife and producing partner Ryan Hawke, and my longtime friends at Blumhouse. I’m looking forward to working for the first time with the talented folks at Showtime and Anthony Hemingway – both of whom have made some of the best television in the last couple years.”
Hemingway, who will exec produce via his production company Anthony Hemingway Productions, commented that “the climate is ripe” for content like “Good Lord Bird” to be produced, and that working with Hawke will “fulfill a bucket list experience.”
“I’ve been blessed to tell great stories that make deliberate social impact by tackling topical issues facing the world, especially communities of color. With all that is going on culturally, socially and politically, the climate is ripe for material that is culturally relevant and provocative. Literature is truly transcendent and McBride blew our minds with ‘The Good Lord Bird,'” Hemingway said. “Directorially, this will be filmmaking at its most artistic and I get to fulfill a bucket list experience – working with the incredible Ethan Hawke.”
Hemingway is repped by WME and attorney Tom Hoberman.
McBride will serve as an EP on the forthcoming series, and in his statement dubbed Hawke “one of America’s most gifted and literate actors.”
“This is just the right time for ‘The Good Lord Bird.’ I wrote it to show we Americans are family – dysfunctional, screwy, funny, even dangerous to one another at times, but still family nonetheless,” McBride said. “Old John Brown always had a knack for landing into the right place at the right time. I’m delighted he’s landed in the lap of one of America’s most gifted and literate actors. Ethan Hawke is special, and I’m thankful that Showtime and Blumhouse have shown faith and trust in one of America’s oddest, most profound, and greatest heroes.”
“Good Lord Bird” will also be executive produced by Jason Blum, Brian Taylor, Ryan Hawke, David Schiff, Jeremy Gold and Marci Wiseman.