Trevor Donovan and producer Brian Bird have teamed up to create a series of “edutainment”-style films via Birds’ production company True Brand Entertainment, Variety has learned exclusively.
These films will be in the tradition of the popular “after school specials,” which became staples of American pop culture. The projects will explore many struggles teenagers and young adults are facing today, including substance abuse, equality, bullying and inclusion issues.
“These scripted narratives will be fun and humorous presentations of contemporary issues which inspire and uplift, just as they did in the original series,” says Donovan, who rose to fame on “90210,” playing the show’s only LGBTQI+ series regular character. “That model worked well back then, and after twenty years, the lessons and storytelling that entertained Gen-X should be enjoyed again.”
Bird, who co-created “When Calls the Heart” and “When Hope Calls,” feels that now is the perfect time for the project.
“At a time when our culture is so divided, our stories can be bridges of understanding, solve problems, offer healing and sometimes even save lives,” the producer notes. “We believe there is a welcome market for entertainment that can entertain, inspire and lift all people up.”
ABC coined the term “after school special” in 1972, launching a series of TV movies highlighting social issues. “ABC Afterschool Special” premiered in 1973. The anthology series, which aired on weekday afternoons, ran for 25 years and won 51 Daytime Emmy Awards. The final episode aired in January 1997.
Donovan recently resumed his national anti-bullying campaign, which had been put on hold due to the pandemic and is set to appear at the upcoming RomaDrama convention in Palm Beach, Florida. He will next be seen in the feature film “Reagan” alongside Dennis Quaid.
Although the new films have yet to find a permanent home, Donovan signed a multi-picture deal with GAC Family deal in October to star and executive produce with GAC Media. He is repped by Michael Yanni at Good Shepherd Management.