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TCA: Starz CEO Chris Albrecht on Renewing ‘Black Sails’ and Picking Up Chiwetel Ejiofor Miniseries ‘Dancing on the Edge’

TCA: Starz CEO Chris Albrecht on Renewing 'Black Sails' and Picking Up Chiwetel Ejiofor Miniseries 'Dancing on the Edge'

One of the first things that Starz CEO Chris Albrecht told the crowd at the TCA press tour when he addressed it this morning was that “Black Sails,” the new Michael Bay-produced pirate drama set to debut next year, had been renewed for a second season before its first had even aired. The response at Comic-Con the other week had been great, he noted, and so, as with “Magic City,” the premium network was reupping on the show ahead of its premiere in January.

The network’s known for racy and sometimes fantasy-tinged period dramas like “Spartacus” and “Da Vinci’s Demons,” while the series that haven’t fallen in this category, “Boss” and the great “Party Down,” have been less successful. In that vein, the network’s new pickup announcement for BBC miniseries “Dancing on the Edge” is only a mild departure — written and directed by Stephen Poliakoff, the series stars Chiwetel Ejiofor as the leader of a black jazz band in 1930s London.

Starz has had its offbeat hits — like the now concluded “Spartacus” — but it still hasn’t had the kind of serious drama breakout the premium networks tend to lean on. Asked about why “Boss,” which was canceled after two seasons, didn’t work out, Albrecht noted that “there were several things about ‘Boss’ that I wish we could have done over again,” including timing for the second season that caused creator Farhad Safinia to “take a step back from production.” In television, Albrecht noted, “the writer/producer/showrunner is the god,” and that person is the keeper of and the executor of that vision.

“I didn’t really feel we had a way to take the show after season two and propel it forward,” he continued, noting that the following just wasn’t enough to justify a third season. Asked about talk of a movie to close up storylines, he said it’s “not going to happen.”

“Spartacus” executive producer Steven S. DeKnight project “Incursion” would be accurately described as “Band of Brothers” meets “Halo,” Albrecht allowed, but said that it still needed a lot of work and is currently “on pause.” The network is ramping up to the premiere BBC co-production “The White Queen” (“women are underserved in the premium space,” he noted), another historical series, and is working on another with Sky Atlantic, the Arctic murder mystery “Fortitude.”

Overall, “we’re looking for people with passion for what they do as opposed to passion projects,” Albrecht explained. “Maybe someday we’ll have the luxury of doing passion projects. We’re hoping to attract the best people to bring us their best ideas” and to show them that “Starz is the best place for them to realize that vision.” Part of that means, he said, “expanding from a lot of period pieces to more broad demographics.”

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