The final decision on whether “Underground” can be revived should be known by the end of August.
That’s the word from executive producer and director Anthony Hemingway, who said Saturday that the show hasn’t yet been officially canceled. WGN America opted not to renew the show for a third season this spring, along with “Outsiders,” and wiped its development slate as it shifted direction away from premium scripted series.
“We’re still waiting,” he said. “I think we have until the end of August to have the definitive answer on whether we find a new home or not. I stay hopeful until the last moment.”
Hemingway said the show’s producers are relying on the fact that “Underground” wasn’t canceled because of ratings concerns, but in the wake of WGN America’s programming shift.
“It isn’t that they lost faith or that it got canceled, we ended up in a weird situation,” he said. “We stand on what we’ve done. We’re using somewhat of the fan base that is continuing to desperately ask about it. Were hoping something comes through.”
Sony Pictures TV, which produces the show, has been shopping “Underground” to networks and streaming services in the wake of WGN America’s decision. Among the networks that have looked at it: OWN, BET and Hulu.
But here’s the sticking point: According to Deadline, the show costs around $4.5 million an episode, which is a hefty pricetag to pick up a show. Refinery29 noted that OWN leader Oprah Winfrey told reporters that “I can’t afford ‘Underground'” because it costs twice as much as shows like the network’s own “Queen Sugar.”
“Underground,” which has earned critical praise for its take on the Underground Railroad in pre-Civil War Georgia, stars Jurnee Smollett-Bell, Aldis Hodge, Jessica de Gouw, Alano Miller, Christopher Meloni, Amirah Vann, Aisha Hinds, Jasika Nicole, and DeWanda Wise. Misha Green and Joe Pokaski created the show and executive produce with Hemingway, Akiva Goldsman, John Legend and others.
Hemingway is currently prepping the USA Network series “Unsolved: The Murders of Tupac and the Notorious B.I.G.,” which airs in early 2018. Asked about the status of “Katrina: American Crime Story,” Hemingway said he didn’t have an update.
FX announced in June that “Versace” would instead be the second installment, while production on “Katrina” would be pushed to early 2018.
“That just kind of got stalled, we’re all just standing by waiting to find out what’s happening,” he said. “It did have a lot of cast attached going into it, but nothing has been done, we haven’t started prep. It’s all up to Ryan Murphy.”
The “Katrina” installment was originally supposed to be produced simultaneously with “The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story,” but air first as the second edition of the “ACS” franchise, following “The People v. O.J. Simpson.” But ultimately, as “Versace” began production first and “needed a lot of attention, he chose to do them one at a time,” Hemingway said.
Before the delay, Matthew Broderick had been cast as FEMA director Michael D. Brown, while Annette Bening signed on as Kathleen Blanco, the governor of Louisiana during Hurricane Katrina, and Dennis Quaid was set as President George W. Bush. No word on whether the pushback has impacted the castings.
Hemingway said he hopes to still be a part of “Katrina” if timing works out. “That’s the nature of the beast!”