UCP has brought together a stellar cast for a series which presents a modern take on the Watergate scandal.
This prospective series, titled “Gaslit,” will star Julia Roberts, Sean Penn, Armie Hammer and Joel Edgerton, and has “Mr. Robot” creator Sam Esmail on board as an executive producer. UCP plans to shop the project around to premium and streaming platforms. Given the talent attached, it will likely cause quite the bidding war.
Based on the Slate podcast “Slow Burn,” the show focuses on the untold stories and forgotten characters of Watergate, from Nixon’s bumbling, opportunistic subordinates, to the deranged zealots aiding and abetting their crimes, to the tragic whistleblowers who would eventually bring the whole rotten enterprise crashing down.
Roberts will star as Martha Mitchell, a big personality with an even bigger mouth, who is a celebrity Arkansan socialite and wife to Nixon’s loyal Attorney General, John Mitchell, played by Penn. Despite her party affiliation, she’s the first person to publicly sound the alarm on Nixon’s involvement in Watergate, causing both the Presidency and her personal life to unravel. Penn’s Mitchell is described as temperamental, foulmouthed and ruthless – yet hopelessly in love with his famously outspoken wife. He’ll be forced to choose between Martha and the President.
Hammer, meanwhile, will play the part of John Dean. A hotshot upstart, Dean is the young White House Counsel torn between his ambition and his struggle with whether he can lie to protect the President. Finally, Edgerton will take on the role of G. Gordon Liddy. A Korean War veteran and former FBI agent, Liddy is chief operative of Nixon’s “Plumbers” unit, tasked with plugging embarrassing leaks in the wake of the Pentagon Papers.
The series, which sees Roberts and Esmail reunite after their critically acclaimed partnership on UCP’s Amazon show “Homecoming,” will be showrun and executive produced by “Mr. Robot” writer Robbie Pickering. Esmail and Chad Hamilton will exec produce under their Esmail Corp production banner, via their overall deals with UCP. Edgerton and his brother Nash Edgerton will direct and executive produce the series.
“We are so excited to announce our next collaboration with Sam as we prepare to bring ‘Gaslit’ to market,” said Dawn Olmstead, president of UCP. “Sam and Esmail Corp have introduced the world to some of the most talented creatives in front of and behind the camera, and this project with Robbie at the helm is the next in the lineage of outstanding series from this team. We are also thrilled to be partnering with Julia once again and welcome Sean, Armie, Joel and Nash to UCP.”
Roberts will executive produce under her banner Red Om Films along with co-executive producers Lisa Gillan and Marisa Yeres Gill. Anonymous Content and Slate’s Gabriel Roth and Josh Levin will also executive produce. Leon Nayfakh, who created the podcast, will consult on the project.
“Gaslit” is the second Esmail project announced by UCP in just over a week, after a dark comedy called “The Resort” from “Palm Springs” writer Andy Siara. The original “Slow Burn” podcast has already been converted into a docu-series at Epix.
“Now more than ever, truth is absolutely stranger than fiction,” added Esmail. “When Robbie first told me about the ‘Slow Burn’ podcast, I devoured it instantly. The second I finished it, I felt compelled to bring this story to television especially after watching the cowardice on display during the recent impeachment hearings. To help realize this important chapter in our country’s history, my first call was to the brilliant Julia Roberts. After her captivating performance in ‘Homecoming,’ I knew Julia was the only person who could tackle the complex role of Martha Mitchell and lead our stellar cast in adapting this bizarre and controversial narrative.”
Roberts and Penn are both repped by CAA and Hirsch Wallerstein. Hammer is repped by WME, Relevant and Sloane, Offer, Weber and Dern. Joel Edgerton is repped by CAA, Anonymous Content, and Hirsh Wallerstein, and his brother Nash is repped by ICM and Hirsch Wallerstein.
UCP is a division of NBCUniversal Content Studios.