Showtime has ordered the eight-part limited series Good Lord Bird from Blumhouse Television, based on the National Book Award-winning novel The Good Lord Bird by bestselling author James McBride. Oscar(R), Golden Globe(R) and Tony(R) nominee Ethan Hawke will star as 19th-century abolitionist John Brown and is co-writing and executive producing with award-winning author and producer Mark Richard (The Ice at the Bottom of the World and Hell on Wheels). Emmy winner Anthony Hemingway (Underground) will direct and executive produce.
Good Lord Bird is told from the point of view of Onion, an enslaved teenager who becomes a member in Brown's motley family during the time of Bleeding Kansas, eventually participating in the famous 1859 raid on the Army depot at Harpers Ferry. Brown's raid failed to initiate the slave revolt he intended, but was the instigating event that started the Civil War. James McBride said:
"This is just the right time for The Good Lord Bird. I wrote it to show we Americans are Family - dysfunctional, screwy, funny, even dangerous to one another at times, but still family nonetheless. Old John Brown always had a knack for landing into the right place at the right time. I'm delighted he's landed in the lap of one of America's most gifted and literate actors. Ethan Hawke is special, and I'm thankful that Showtime and Blumhouse have shown faith and trust in one of America's oddest, most profound, and greatest heroes."
"Good Lord Bird is one of my favorite books, told with wit, grace and wisdom by the great James McBride. Bringing this story to the screen has been a passion project of mine, and I am incredibly fortunate to have partners who are equally enthusiastic and are making it a reality - my wife and producing partner Ryan Hawke, and my longtime friends at Blumhouse. I'm looking forward to working for the first time with the talented folks at Showtime and Anthony Hemingway - both of whom have made some of the best television in the last couple years."
"I've been blessed to tell great stories that make deliberate social impact by tackling topical issues facing the world, especially communities of color. With all that is going on culturally, socially and politically, the climate is ripe for material that is culturally relevant and provocative. Literature is truly transcendent and McBride blew our minds with The Good Lord Bird. Saying yes was apparent for me and my producing partner, Lyah LeFlore-Ituen. We're both excited to continue building relationships with Showtime, Blumhouse, and our creative partners, including the masterful James McBride. Directorially, this will be filmmaking at its most artistic and I get to fulfill a bucket list experience - working with the incredible Ethan Hawke."
Hawke is a Tony and four-time Academy Award nominated actor and writer whose diverse career as a novelist, actor, director, and screenwriter spans more than three decades. He can currently be seen on Broadway in Sam Shepard's True West opposite Paul Dano. He received critical praise for his performance in Paul Schrader's First Reformed and was named Best Actor by the New York Film Critics Circle and the Gotham Awards, in addition to winning this year's Independent Spirit Award for Best Male Lead. His previous film credits include Dead Poets Society, Gattaca, Training Day (Academy Award, SAG(R) nominations), Before the Devil Knows You're Dead, Boyhood (Academy Award, SAG(R), Golden Globe, BAFTA nominations), Born to Be Blue, Richard Linklater's Before trilogy (Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, Before Midnight), and Juliet, Naked. He also directed and co-wrote the music biopic Blaze which he produced with his wife Ryan for their Under the Influence banner.
Anthony Hemingway is one of television's go-to visionaries and one of the preeminent directors in the industry. In 2016, Hemingway directed and co-executive produced The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story, which garnered him Emmy, Golden Globe, BAFTA, PGA and NAACP Image awards and an Emmy nomination in the Outstanding Directing for a Limited Series, Movie or a Dramatic Special category. His recent work includes Underground, Unsolved: The Murders of Tupac and the Notorious B.I.G. and The Purge. In 2018, Hemingway launched his eponymous production shingle Anthony Hemingway Productions. The company's mission is to add dimension to the human story, be the ears for the unheard, a microphone for the voiceless and a lens for the unseen. Hemingway will next helm the college football drama film Work Horses, alongside Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, Heisman Trophy winner and Super Bowl MVP Desmond Howard. Hemingway is currently in prep on the reboot of New York Undercover with Dick Wolf, where he will direct the pilot and serve as an executive producer.
James McBride won the 2013 National Book Award for Fiction for The Good Lord Bird. His landmark memoir, The Color of Water, rested on theNew York Times bestseller list for two years. McBride adapted his debut novel, Miracle at St. Anna, for a film directed by Spike Lee, and later co-wrote the screenplay Red Hook Summer with Lee. His other books include Song Yet Sung, Kill 'Em and Leave: Searching for James Brown and the American Soul and the short-story collection Five-Carat Soul.
Mark Richard is an award-winning author and television producer. His first book, the short story collection The Ice at the Bottom of the World, won the 1990 Pen/Ernest Hemingway Foundation Award. His memoir House of Prayer No. 2 details growing up in the American South as a 'special child' and how the racial tensions and religious fervor of his hometown animate his writing today. Richard is a recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship, a Whiting Award, a New York Foundation for the Arts fellowship, the Mary Francis Hobson Medal for Arts and Letters, and a National Magazine Award for Fiction. His television work includes Fear the Walking Dead, Man in the High Castle and Hell on Wheels, among others.
Good Lord Bird is executive produced by Ethan Hawke, James McBride, Mark Richard, Anthony Hemingway, Jason Blum, Brian Taylor, Ryan Hawke, David Schiff, Jeremy Gold and Marci Wiseman. This news comes direct from Showtime.