Tavis Smiley continues to make a push into scripted content (film and TV), teaming up with J.J. Abrams (a second time) to produce an event series on the final months of Michael Jackson’s life.
It will be an adaptation of Smiley’s Jackson biography (co-written by David Ritz), “Before You Judge Me: The Triumph and Tragedy of Michael Jackson’s Last Days,” published June 21st 2016.
According to Warner Bros. TV, the book “examines the soaring highs and deep lows faced by the late pop star – his constant hunt for privacy in a life that was more public than almost any other, and the pressures he endured as someone whose fame made him socially fragile and almost unable to live.”
Abrams, Smiley, Ben Stephenson and David Brewington will serve as executive producers for the event series, though the project hasn’t been set up at any network yet.
This is the second time in the last year that Smiley and Abrams have teamed up; a year ago, the pair announced that they were working together to adapt Smiley’s 2014 book “Death of a King: The Real Story of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Final Year,” for television. The New York Times bestselling author and award-winning talk show host recounts the trials and triumphs of the final 365 days of King’s life, in the Little, Brown & Company-published book, including denunciations by the press, rejection from the president, dismissal by the country’s black middle class and militants, assaults on his character, ideology, and political tactics, to name a few – all of which he had to rise above in order to continue to lead.
No word yet on how the book will be adapted – whether as a miniseries, or a TV movie – nor do we know on what network it will land, and whether it’s even still in the works.
Also on Smiley’s plate is yet another adaptation of one of his other books – “My Journey With Maya,” which details his nearly 30-year friendship with the late Maya Angelou. When Maya Angelou and Tavis Smiley met in 1986, he was twenty-one and she was fifty-eight. Angelou was a teacher and a maternal figure to Smiley. In the book, Smiley recalls a joyful friendship filled inspiring conversation.
Announced a year ago, Smiley and director Kenny Leon teamed up to develop a stage adaptation of the book, and possibly even more.
No ETA on any of the above 3 projects; but all should be on your lists of upcoming projects to watch for.