The CW Is Developing a Period Crime Drama Series Based on Real-Life Black Detective, Samuel Marlowe

Samuel Marlowe

Samuel Marlowe / Los Angeles Times

On the heels of the “Network Diversity Scorecard” report published on this blog yesterday that rated The CW one of the worst among the Big 5 (ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC, The CW), comes news today that, currently in development is a period crime drama inspired by the real-life black private investigator, Samuel Marlowe, who was the inspiration for author Raymond Chandler’s famed fictional character Philip Marlowe, who’s been played in film adaptations, by several actors over the decades, from Humphrey Bogart to Robert Mitchum.

The real Samuel Marlowe allegedly was the first black private detective licensed by the city of Los Angeles; this was in the 1930s. He was a Jamaican immigrant and World War I veteran, and is said to have corresponded with writers Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett for decades. He was born in 1890, in Montego Bay, Jamaica. According to an LA Times obituary, he served in Britain’s Egyptian Expeditionary Force, a World War I fighting brigade that guarded the Suez Canal. After the war, Marlowe immigrated to the U.S., settling in Los Angeles, where he became a private detective.

The CW drama based on Marlowe’s career is described as “a character-based procedural with a modern feel and contemporary soundtrack,” although it’ll be set in 1937 Los Angeles. “Marlowe” will follow Samuel Marlowe “from the mansions and red carpets of Beverly Hills, to the jazz clubs and back alleys of Little Harlem, where he navigates crimes, mysteries and social issues ripped from today’s headlines through the prism of 1937 Los Angeles,” says the press release.

Devon Greggory (“CSI Cyber,” “State of Affairs”) will pen the script and co-executive produce the project, which hails from Aaron Kaplan’s Kaplan Entertainment shingle. Kaplan will also exec produce.

The project is still in early development, and so whether it’ll eventually make it to a TV screen near you, courtesy of The CW, isn’t a guarantee. But should “Marlowe” indeed become a series for the network, it would become The CW’s first with a black character central.

Let’s hope it makes it through to the finish line; time to play, who would you cast as Marlowe? Given that it’s The CW, there’s a strong likelihood that the character is under 40 years old. The CW’s audience skews younger. So your casting choices are limited to black male actors under 40, or can play under 40.


  1. LOVE. THIS. Containment had a Black lead, but that was more of an ensemble. But that’s a small quibble, CW seems to be making more diverse moves than CBS or NBC LOL

  2. This doesn’t fit The CW Network! This should be on PBS! Sterling Brown would be a good Sam Marlowe. Courtney B. Vance for an over 40 Sam Marlowe!

  3. This sounds like an awesome subject for a series. But I’m not confident that it will be cast properly, written properly and given the time to find its audience.

  4. i would love to see Aldis Hodge or Shamier Anderson (but Wynona Earp may have him locked down) Ashley Walters might be interesting… has mahershala gotten too big for this type of thing?

    • Perhaps the actor shouldn’t try to do a Jamaican accent unless they get an actor like David Harewood, who can actually do a proper Jamaican accent. As a Jamaican, it makes my teeth itch hearing people butcher the accent!

      • i too hope they can find an actor who can do an authentic Jamaican accent. Given that he fought for the British, he might have a British accent. In any case. I hope that this makes it to development

  5. Why not period music, for pete’s sake? The 1930s had some amazing music, and it would be great if this series could expose it to a new audience.

  6. I wonder if this means we NEVER get any more Easy Rawlins or is this the kind of thing that would spur that back into action?

  7. There’s an audience for this, but not for anything Walter Mosley has written?

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