Once you’ve made it into J. J. Abrams‘ inner circle of artists, you’re set for life. The Star Wars and Star Trek director, who is known to collaborate frequently with several crew members in front of and behind the camera, is re-teaming with another erstwhile colleague for his next venture.
Just months after Abrams cast early protege Keri Russell in Star Wars: Episode IX, The Hollywood Reporter announces that Alias breakout Jennifer Garner will work with Abrams again on a new television show for Apple.
The gestating, high-profile streaming service will adapt Amy Silverstein‘s memoir My Glory Was I Had Such Friends into a limited series of the same name. Garner is tapped for the starring role as a woman on a treacherous road to recovery after a second heart transplant. Abrams is set to executive produce while Karen Croner — who wrote the Garner-led movie The Tribes of Palos Verdes — will pen the show’s script.
My Glory Was I Had Such Friends chronicles Silverstein’s harrowing experience of needing a heart transplant nearly 26 years after she’d had her first one. After her initial donor heart failed, the New York-based writer and attorney was forced to move across the country for treatment.
Upon hearing of Silverstein’s predicament, nine comrades — who had each known Silverstein at different stages of her life — hit the pause button on their own lives for a friend in need. Some were strangers to each other before the ordeal. However, the women collectively organized a scheduled support system for Silverstein that saw them take turns to fly out to California and be by her side.
At first blush, My Glory Was I Had Such Friends definitely sounds like a noticeably different show compared to Garner and Abrams’ first project. Alias focuses on an ass-kicking CIA double agent named Sydney Bristow (Garner) who pulls off a wide variety of wigs and disguises in order to complete clandestine missions. Plus, there’s a layer of prophecy tinging the show’s five-season run. The work of a fictional 15th-century philosopher Milo Giacomo Rambaldi makes up a large portion of Alias‘ more thrilling moments.
That said, on an arguably more crucial level, Alias can be remembered for celebrating a noteworthy female protagonist navigating personal conundrums surrounding her identity and the relationships she values (particularly when it comes to her father figures). Upon considering the series’ wider impact on pop culture, Garner affirms that Sydney is so well-loved because of her nuance. As she told Entertainment Weekly in a 2005 interview:
“To me, what’s mattered about this character is how much she’s struggled to hold on to her humanity in the middle of this weird world that she lives in, and how incredibly hard she works at doing the right thing when that isn’t always cut-and-dried.”
When the Alias writers room then reunited at the ATX Festival in 2017 — over a decade after the series had ended — co-executive producer Josh Appelbaum pointed out that everyone on board “first and foremost looked at the show as a family drama.” The panel also concurred that both the emotional and physical triumphs of Sydney’s characterization were bolstered by Garner’s hardworking nature. “Everything was done with enthusiasm, generosity, and warmth,” said another executive producer, Ken Olin.
With women-led stories being a top priority in these Abrams and Garner collaborations, I’m extra fascinated to see where they’ll take My Glory Was I Had Such Friends. It’s not as though a show like it doesn’t exist in Abrams’ wheelhouse, anyway. While the filmmaker is most well-known for putting his name to sci-fi, fantasy, and action vehicles, he has backed some proficient dramas and comedies.
These are projects that exceed expectations no matter how simple their plot summaries are. Because an Abrams production tends to end up a sustainable whole that’s thoroughly enjoyable regardless.
Sometimes, great leads can make all the difference. Felicity may suffer from never-ending dramatics, but Keri Russell’s wonderful presence acts as the show’s unwavering anchor. Morning Glory‘s comedic schtick is especially strong because of an exuberant Rachel McAdams and uproarious Harrison Ford. Infinitely Polar Bear is deliberately feel-good but held together particularly splendidly by Mark Ruffalo’s deeply intimate and grounding performance.
In truth, Abrams has been on a roll for years. These days, he’s been prepping a return to TV with a couple of projects, including another Apple series starring musician Sara Bareilles. Besides his whole directing-Star Wars-again thing, Bad Robot is going all in with new film projects as well.
Frankly, My Glory Was I Had Such Friends likely means bigger news for Garner. I erred on the side of caution for the state of Garner’s career before Peppermint came out. I really wanted the film to be a grand comeback, but it is sadly less-than-stellar. Moreover, Garner’s first return as a leading lady on the small screen in HBO’s Camping is more grating than anything else. Sure, the show’s meanness allows her to portray a character that her extremely likable demeanor never called for, but the series doesn’t consistently work despite its very specific brand of harsh satire.
So, let’s pay close attention to My Glory Was I Had Such Friends. This is a dynamic duo could ensure TV magic for a second time.