Last November, Sundance channel announced that it had given the greenlight to its next wholly owned original series, titled “Hap and Leonard.”
The new series is based on the award-winning novel franchise by Joe Lansdale, also titled “Hap And Leonard,” which is described as a Southern set wry thriller centered on an unlikely friendship between a straight white southern man, and a gay African American Vietnam veteran. Together, the 2 best friends wind up in trouble with various criminals as they attempt to solve local crimes. They work for a former police officer turned private investigator.
Research I performed on the novel franchise states that “Leonard” in the title is Leonard Pine, a six-foot five, gay, black Vietnam vet burdened with major anger issues. Further… “He was raised by his uncle who shunned him after learning he was gay. However when his uncle passes away, he leaves his house and all his assets to Leonard. Leonard has zero tolerance for racist or anti-gay slurs. Although Hap dislikes guns, Leonard has no problem carrying or using them. Quick to anger, at times he cannot understand Hap’s aversion to violence or killing if necessary, even when provoked. His relationships are also short and tempestuous. Leonard is the much more aggressive of the two and repeatedly burned down a local crack house that used to be his new next door neighbor.”
One can only assume that his mercurial and explosive nature is as a result of his family not accepting his homosexuality, as well as having to navigate racism and homophobia, and possibly even PTSD, or a combination of them all (and/or more that may be revealed within the novel).
Sundance has now cast that part, and Michael K. Williams will play Leonard Pine.
Meanwhile, his partner in crime, Hap Collins, is a white working class man who did time in prison when he was younger, for refusing to be drafted into the military and serve in the Vietnam War. Often lovesick, most of his relationships haven’t worked out. He’s not as quick to anger as Leonard, as he often finds himself having to talk Leonard out of acting on something seriously violent.
That role has yet to be cast.
The series has been greenlit for 6 one-hour episodes for an early 2016 premiere.
Jim Mickle is attached to write and direct with co-writer Nick Damici.
Sarah Barnett, SundanceTV President, said, “Equal parts shocking and hilarious, ‘Hap and Leonard’ will cut through in a crowded TV landscape as irresistible southern pulp noir. Jim Mickle and Nick Damici have a delightfully fresh approach to storytelling, creating vivid characters set in a picaresque world of deep friendship and occasional blood curdling incident.” She continued, “What’s more, Jim and Nick are true Sundance voices, having made a splash in recent years at Sundance Film Festival with their feature film. We couldn’t be happier to add ‘Hap and Leonard’ to our line up of daring scripted shows.”
This news comes a couple of days after Williams was cast as the lead in IFC’s “The Spoils of Babylon” series sequel, titled “The Spoils Before Dying,” a pulp-mystery set in Los Angeles’ 1950’s jazz scene, which will follow Rock Banyon (played by Williams), a down-and-out jazz pianist who becomes the prime suspect when his lead singer (who also happens to be his lover) is found murdered.
Worth noting, both the IFC channel and Sundance TV are both owned by AMC Networks.