AMC today announced that Oscar-winner Stephen Gaghan will direct the pilot for White City, a gripping geopolitical drama focused on Western diplomats and journalists living in Afghanistan.
White City is an adventure story set in the somewhat surreal ex-pat world of near-present Afghanistan, one of the most discussed and least understood places on earth. The show focuses on Jon Liston, a war junkie who has spent the better part of the last decade in Kabul with a front-row seat to the carnage. In the pilot, against the advice of everyone from American embassy staffers to tweeting tribal leaders to the French journalist he's in a relationship with, Jon tragically overreaches in an attempt to talk with insurgent leaders. In the series, Jon must find a new role in Kabul as he attempts to address his guilt, frustration and doubts about whether there is good left for him or any Westerner to do in Afghanistan.
The project comes from co-writers and co-executive producers Nick McDonell, a novelist (Twelve, An Expensive Education) and journalist who has covered Iraq and Afghanistan for TIME, and John Dempsey, former long-time resident of Kabul and senior advisor on Afghanistan to the late US diplomat, Richard C. Holbrooke. Executive producers are Chris Mundy, a long-time journalist for Rolling Stone and showrunner on Criminal Minds and Low Winter Sun, and Tom Freston, the former CEO of Viacom and a former resident of Afghanistan. Currently an advisor to VICE and MOBY Group, an Afghan media corporation. White City is an AMC Studios production.
Director Stephen Gaghan had this to say in a statement.
"Nick and John were actually staying at my house, fresh out of Kabul, when they were going around pitching the show. They then went on to write a truly astonishing script. Which got the attention of another old pal, Chris Mundy. It reminds me of (Robert) Altman's MASH or a great Hal Ashby script. But really, let's face it, if (Francis Ford) Coppola was doing Apocalypse Now today, it would be an AMC series."
Producer Chris Mundy also released his own statement.
"We're unbelievably excited that Steve is doing this. Before the pilot was even ordered, we talked about him as our dream director so to have it come to fruition is incredible. He not only knows and cares deeply about the terrain we're covering but he brings an energy and intelligence that you can't match. It's a show that everyone involved with feels very passionate about and protective of. So, to have Steve step in and match that same passion makes us realize how lucky we are."