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Tavis Smiley Teams Up w/ J.J. Abrams to Bring His ‘Death of a King’ to the Small Screen

Tavis Smiley Teams Up w/ J.J. Abrams to Bring His 'Death of a King' to the Small Screen

Tavis Smiley has teamed up with J.J. Abrams and his Bad Robot shingle to adapt his 2014 book on MLK, “Death of a King: The Real Story of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Final Year,” for television.

The New York Times bestselling author and award-winning talk show host recounts the trials and triumphs of the final 365 days of King’s life, in the Little, Brown & Company-published book, including denunciations by the press, rejection from the president, dismissal by the country’s black middle class and militants, assaults on his character, ideology, and political tactics, to name a few – all of which he had to rise above in order to continue to lead.

No word yet on how the book will be adapted – whether as a miniseries, or a TV movie – nor do we know on what network it will land. 

It’s also too early for casting news, but this could be an opportunity for an up-and-comer to shine, as I’m always a fan of casting relative unknowns when it comes to filmed stories of the lives of real-life characters. It could also be a coup for the right director, given that it will likely be a high profile project, with Abrams and the WB involved.

Bad Robot acquired the rights to the book in partnership with Warner Brothers Television, with Abrams set to exec produce alongside Ben Stephenson, and Smiley.

This news comes a few months after the theatrical release of Ava DuVernay’s “Selma” – one of a handful of MLK projects that had/have long been in the works, and the first to reach the proverbial finish line.

Also worth noting, Smiley and director Kenny Leon announced earlier this month, that they had teamed up to develop a stage adaptation of Smiley’s new Maya Angelou memoir, “My Journey With Maya,” which details their nearly 30-year friendship.

Pick up a copy of  “Death of a King: The Real Story of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Final Year” here.

Deadline was first to report the “Death of a King” news.

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