With shooting on Tyler Perry's The Marriage Counselor likely complete by now, actress Jurnee Smollett has signed on to play the lead in a new NBC women's prison drama pilot titled Bad Girls – an adaptation of a UK series I first told you about last September when it was reported then that NBC had picked up rights to the program.
First to recap before talking about Smollett's role.
I looked up the UK series the NBC pilot pilot will be based on and learned that the award-winning show ran from 1999 to 2006 on ITV, a network in the UK. Apparently you can find it on DVD in the US currently – although it doesn't look like you'll find every single season.
Another thing I discovered is that the UK series had quite a few black actors and actresses in its cast – most notably, Colin Salmon, a name that's come up a number of times on this site. Salmon played a character named Rowan Dunlop, the prison's senior medical officer.
Other black actors in the series include Antonia Okonma who played one of the inmates, Darlene Cake, doing four years for smashing a girl in the face with a glass; Angela Bruce who played a character named Mandy Goodhue, one of the prison's officers; Sharon Duncan-Brewster as Crystal Gordon, doing 12 months for shoplifting and harboring escapees; and Kim Oliver as Buki Lester, doing 30 months for knifing her pimp,
There might be others I missed.
There are of course white cast members too, both inmates and prison staff. But we don't care about them :)
The series' website goes into a lot more detail about each character, and even features an interview with the actors playing each part. I just haven't had time to go through them all.
All this to say that I assume NBC's version will follow similar *mixed* casting – black and non-black inmates and prison staff, male and female – and maybe even follow the same characters and storylines.
Smollett will play a character named "Gwen," described as "a famous rap star who lives the high life on the local club scene until she gets busted by the DEA and finds herself tossed into a women’s prison without bail."
I read that, at one point, back in the early 2000s, HBO was developing a U.S. remake, though I don't believe anything came of that; and in 2006, FX was also planning on bringing an American version of Bad Girls to US TV screens. It doesn't look like either will happen now, with NBC taking a stab at it. I wonder if there are any connections between the 3, like maybe it started with HBO, moved to FX, and has now ended up on NBC, with the same creative team behind it each time.
But a prison drama on NBC? It'll have to be sanitized, which, I think, will kill its authenticity, and thus, its *edge*. I guess I'm thinking something gritty like Oz, which was on HBO.
Well… I'll take the old wait-and-see approach on this one.
No word on when we can expect to see this pilot episode… likely when fall season comes around. No other casting announced at this point.