The best-selling nonfiction book based on racial injustice and the Black Lives Matter movement is coming to the small screen.
Zombies and Saul Goodman are all well and good, but AMC could be developing one of its most crucial series to date. Deadline reports that a show based on Wesley Lowery’s “They Can’t Kill Us All: Ferguson, Baltimore, and a New Era in America’s Racial Justice” is being developed.
Book rights were acquired by Brad Weston’s Makeready last fall and LaToya Morgan (Into the Badlands), who inked an overall deal with the channel last year, will serve as writer. Although not much detail is currently known about the show, one can expect the dramatization of the events described in Lowery’s book. Per Deadline: “The potential series also will reflect current events and race relations through the stories and voices of fictional characters.”
Despite not having much of a premise at all, this already sounds a lot easier to get on board with as opposed to something like HBO’s adamant decision to stand behind its upcoming ‘alternate history’ show, Confederate. Optioning a series based on Lowery’s book — which details the very real social circumstances faced by African-Americans due to segregation — may at least take context into account. Lowery’s own interstate journey in writing the book took him through “the most heavily policed, if otherwise neglected, corners of America today.” It is a collective study of systemic failures leading up to racial profiling and the murders of men like Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, and Freddie Gray. Effectively, there is no need for an ‘alternate history’ to tell us that these problems are happening at an alarming rate.
Film School Rejects’ own Paola Mardo has written extensively and wonderfully about representation in the past. An especially timely article of hers details the importance of true stories, where context and intent to rewrite the roles of black people in the media are present. While Mardo’s article focuses on Ava DuVernay’s unflinchingly raw documentary, 13th — a film that details the circumstances of the wilfully unjust American prison system — it remains relevant to AMC’s latest venture. A show based on “They Can’t Kill Us” has the potential to be as essential as something like 13th, because it comes from such an indisputably true place.
When 13th opened at the New York Film Festival last year, festival director Kent Jones made it a point to mention:
“I felt like I was experiencing something so rare: direct contact between the artist and right now, this very moment. In fact, Ava is actually trying to redefine the terms on which we discuss where we’re at, how we got here, and where we’re going.”
The big question is, could Morgan reach a similar pitch with stories based on Lowery’s findings? All we know is that we desperately want her to. The source material is pivotal enough — AMC just needs to make it happen.
Racial tension and injustice continue to weave its way into the cultural narrative of film and TV. If it means that audiences will get gems like Jordan Peele’s Get Out or anything DuVernay has put out in the last couple of years, that’s a big reason to celebrate. Of course, there is a likelihood of something like Arrow showrunner announcing an intent to introduce police brutality as something “topical” for the superhero vehicle, which sounds like it could range anywhere between absolutely unacceptable to tokenism. Nevertheless, a number of stories coming up in the pipeline will invariably include the politics of blackness, and that in itself can be a good thing when done right.