HBO News Blog

Development Slate: Dwayne Johnson; Another Scorsese/Winter Project & More

By Jef Dinsmore on Jun 7, 2013 to HBO News, Vinyl

The development news just does not let up with this network. Here are a few more projects to add the list of potential content for HBO. Some of the news is a bit vague but we caught it and have got to report it. Only time will tell, of course, if the various projects mention ever make it on air.

Dwayne Johnson To Star & Produce A HBO Pilot

dwayne-johnsonphoto credit: Stewart C cc

 That’s right The Rock wants a piece of the action. He is looking to settle down into a TV role even though he has been an action star in the movies. He was recently in Pain & Gain and now is in the top movie of the week Fast & Furious 6. The project he is spearheading for HBO is an untitled work which chronicles the lives of athletes — some retired, some still active — living in the exciting hotspot called Miami. Johnson will play one of those athletes.

Johnson is teaming up with Mark Wahlberg & Steve Levinson as producers. Levinson & Wahlberg, of course, produced HBO’s ENTOURAGE and the current BOARDWALK EMPIRE as well as another pilot offer for the network called THE MISSIONARY. Popular director du jour Peter Berg is onboard to direct the pilot. Shooting is planned to start this fall.

Casting has already started for the project as actor Omar Miller, from CSI:Miami fame  (pictured at right) will be joining Johnson on the project. He is said to play a character named Charlie who is an “affable former pro athlete searching for his nest career.”

If Johnson and company are picked up based on this pilot a showrunner will be assigned and a series could develop. We will keep a watchful eye to see what materializes.

Russell Simmons Returns to HBO

This king of hip-hop and Def Jam Records is making his return to the network. Russell Simmons, of course, was the man behind DEF COMEDY JAM. Anyone remember that show?  It was a format for standup comedians to do their shtick. It ran from 07.01.1992 – 01.01.1997 and appeared again briefly in 2006. It featured such talents as Martin Lawrence, D. L. Hughley, Adele Givens, Cedric The Entertainer and Dave Chappelle and many more.

Simmons has just signed a development deal with HBO for another two-year stretch. That means that whatever ideas he has will first be considered by HBO. It could mean at the very least a return stint for the comedy showcase or any number of projects related to his music and recording label. It is nice to have him back and we look forward to his presence back at the premium cable network.

TOGETHERNESS Finds Its Lead Actor


HBOWatch has a few earlier posts about this project and it now has completed the search for the right cast. TOGETHERNESS is a single-camera comedy pilot written, directed and produced Mark and Jay Duplass. The story is about two couples living under the same roof and struggle to keep their respective relationships alive while still pursuing their individual aspirations and dreams. Cast earlier in the project were Amanda Peet as Tina Morris; Melanie Lynskey as Michelle Pierson and Steve ZIssis as Alex. The fourth player ended up being Mark Duplass himself. He will play Brett Pierson.

Here, for the first time, is a bit more detail about the plot of the pilot: Tina Morris (Peet)  relocates from Houston to Los Angeles and moves in with her sister Michelle Pierson (Lynskey) and her husband Brett (Duplass). Also moving in with the Piersons is Brett’s friend Alex (Zissis), a struggling, over-the-hill actor. The health food obsessive Brett is successful in business, and on the surface, his peculiar brand of enthusiasm has gotten him a picture-perfect life: a sweet wife, a solid job, two healthy kids. But under that surface, Brett has some problems in both his personal and professional lives. All of this is difficult for him to manage due to the close proximity of the three other inhabitants under the same roof.

If HBO likes the finished pilot they may have another comedy on the schedule making Mark Duplass one busy actor. He also appears currently on FX’s The League and NBC’s The Mindy Project. It is yet another one to keep our eye on.  

 HBO plans OLIVE KITTERIDGE Miniseries

Frances McDormand, of Fargo fame and Richard Jenkins, from HBO’s SIX FEET UNDER, have both signed on to star in an HBO Miniseries. The work is called OLIVE KITTRIDGE, which is based on the Pulitzer-Prize winning tome of the same name by Elizabeth Strout. It has been shaped into a four hour miniseries to be directed by Lisa Cholondenko. You might recognize her at the helm of the movie The Kids Are All Right but she also directed episodes of HBO’s SIX FEET UNDER and HUNG. It is being produced by Playtone and Frances McDormand.

OLIVE KITTRIDGE tells the alternately poignantly sweet, acerbically funny, and devastatingly tragic story of a seemingly placid New England town wrought with illicit affairs, crime and tragedy, told through the lens of Olive, whose wicked wit and harsh demeanor mask a warm but troubled heart and a staunch moral center. McDormand plays the title character and Jenkins plays her husband, Henry. It has been reported that this project was such a dream project for McDormand that she bought the rights to the work out of her own pocket. From its premise it looks like it could be deliciously fun; think of Desperate Housewives given the HBO treatment.

Scorsese and Winter Have Another HBO Series In Mind
Photo By David Shankbone [CC-BY-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

scorsesseMartin Scorsese and Terence Winter (of BOARDWALK EMPIRE) have picked their next project for HBO. It is technically untitled at this time but is going under the banner of the HBO Rock-n-Roll series. Joining these two as developers of this new series is The Rolling Stones front man, Mick Jagger. The production is expected to get underway in early 2014 with Scorsese directing the pilot. The work, written by Winter, has not been given the a series order just yet but considering the team behind it the work has a good chance of doing so.

It also has a good chance because of the face that is attached to the lead role. Bobby Cannavale, who we saw in Season Three of BOARDWALK EMPIRE, plays the lead character. This story, which has been a kernel of an idea for a few years now, and was once known as The History of Music (a title since abandoned?), follows the exploits of Richie (Cannavale), a cocaine-fueled record exec in NYC circa 1977, when punk, disco and a new form of music called hip-hop collided. Richie is a talented A&R guy who is elevated to run a big label, even though he thinks he’s better suited to focusing on day-to-day music matters. Through this character’s eyes we see the history of certain musical styles play out. With this production team in charge we are sure it will be a story full of rough, dark tones but with a rich set of characters and music.

As always HBOWatch will keep abreast of this project and all the others as HBO continues to explore the vast entertainment content that may fit into its schedule and feel right at home on the network. We’ll keep you posted.

  • Hey, Jeff that is not Mark Duplass in the picture. It`s Ron Livingston.

    • Jef Dinsmore

      Oops, that is a first, I think. Thank you and corrected.

  • Jef Dinsmore

    Theorizing is part of what we do here. Let me throw out some thoughts along those lines as far as dramatic one hour shows are concerned.

    AMERICAN GODS is a ways off; it may take TREME’s place in fall of ’14.
    THE DARK TOWER, is a popular choice but seems to be a dead project.
    TRUE DETECTIVE is a go, however, and may take LUCK’s place in Jan. ’14.

    That leaves the question of what big drama will be ready to take TRUE BLOOD’s place in the summer 2014 if Season Six is its last. Or could THE NEWSROOM stand alone ast he dramatic series of next summer.

    I am sure we will have a big post by year’s end speculating all this and more.

    • SerTahu

      What if American Gods was to replace True Blood next year? From what I know of it, it seems like it would be a very suitable replacement. And if True Detective does take over Luck’s place, all that is left is a replacement for Boardwalk Empire, which I don’t believe will survive past season 4, or season 5 at the most. Assuming HBO wakes up and realises what an opportunity The Dark Tower would be, it would make a very suitable (and epic) replacement.

      All that would be left then is Treme’s slot….

      And I am relatively new to HBO Watch, so I wasn’t aware there would be a large speculation post. I am very much looking forward to it :P.

      • Jef Dinsmore

        We speculate often around here. We look forward to your input.

        Right now, the only dramatic series that we know of that is close to a finished product is TRUE DETECTIVE so it only makes sense that that show makes it to air first.

        HBO may, however, forgo a drama starting in January thus jostling the schedule even further.And we totally forgot to add the limited series CRIMINAL JUSTICE to the mix.

        And the theories go on and on.

        • American Gods is never going to get finished by 2014. It`s a longshot, and HBO have to much series in line for 2014 and Gods will have much more time to prep than most shows from HBO before it can go into production.

  • Ser Tahu

    With Luck’s spot still up for grabs, and since Boardwalk Empire’s viewership has been perpetually falling and True Blood feels like it is coming to a close, HBO really needs some good new series’ to fill that gap. The have American Gods coming in to fill the hole left by Luck, but as for the other two, here is my hope:

    I believe Boardwalk Empire should be replaced by The Dark Tower. If HBO gives it the Game of Thrones treatment and makes it a series (without any of the movie nonsense they were talking about) they could have another Game of Thrones size hit on their hands.

    As for True Blood, assuming that they replace BE with TDT, they will have three fantasy series, so they would want a modern day, non-fantasy series in their line up. I personally think they should give The Newsroom a push and make that fill in True Bloods timeslot as a flagship drama series.

    American Gods, Game of Thrones, The Newsroom and The Dark Tower would make for an epic line up.

  • The Phoenix

    I just want American Gods!!!

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