Last month, Amy Pascal and Sony Pictures Television teamed up with Jamie Foxx to executive produce a TV series adaptation of the upcoming new crime novel “Darktown” by author Thomas Mullen.
The 1940s story is set in Atlanta and will follow the city’s first black police officers. The newly minted policemen are met with deep hostility by their white peers and their authority is limited: They can’t arrest white suspects; they can’t drive a squad car; they can’t even use the police headquarters and must instead operate out of the basement of a gym. In the story the book tells, when a black woman who was last seen in a car driven by a white man turns up fatally beaten, no one seems to care except for Boggs and Smith, two black cops from vastly different backgrounds. Pressured from all sides, they will risk their jobs, the trust the community has put in them, and even their own safety to investigate her death.
Today brings word of another potential TV series also about a group of first black police officers, although during an earlier period in history (1920s/30s), and set in St. Louis, MO – this one hails from David Oyelowo and National Geographic Channel (surprising, since they aren’t exactly known for scripted drama series; but they are apparently making a serious push into scripted programming).
To be titled “The Black 22s,” the proposed drama is based the true story of the first all-black police squad in America in St. Louis, Missouri, who are fighting against the gangland killers of Prohibition, and set up to fail by their own bosses, all during one of the most racially-charged years in the country’s history.
Oyelowo, as of today’s announcement, will produce the project, alongside Paul Guyot (who will also write), John Rogers and Jennifer Court, as well as Bharat Nalluri (who is attached to direct).
“This pitch gave me goosebumps from beginning to end. It is a moving, muscular and resonant story that perfectly exemplifies the adage that truth is strange and more compelling than fiction,” said Carolyn Bernstein, National Geographic EVP of Global Scripted Programming & Production. “It also represents the kind of timely and provocative storytelling that I hope will become a hallmark of Nat Geo’s new scripted initiative.”
“I’ve been researching and developing this story for years,” Guyot said. “The cast of true life characters is astounding, and I’m honored to bring their story of sacrifice and dedication to public attention.”
No ETA yet, or any word on casting.
Deadline was first to announce “The Black 22s.”