ABC’s ‘Women of the Movement’ Anthology Series From Jay-Z, Will Smith & Aaron Kaplan Opens Virtual Writers Room with HVE Client Marissa Jo Cerar

By Nellie Andreeva

ABC is stepping up development of Women of the Movement(working title), an anthology series that chronicles the civil rights movement as told by the women behind it.. The network has commissioned the opening of a writers room for the project, from writer Marissa Jo Cerar and a producing team that includes Jay-Z, Will Smith and Aaron Kaplan.

Following the rules of social distancing, the writers room, run by showrunner Cerar, will be virtual, with writers working remotely from their homes. The team is expected to start work on scripts today.

Additionally, Kaplan’s Kapital Entertainment, which is the studio on the project, has signed a backup script development deal with Cerar.

With Hollywood physical production shut down for the most part, writing is one of few content-making areas that have remained open for business. Writers rooms for current and upcoming series have gone virtual, with new ones opening up. The broadcast networks recently ordered backup scriptsfor their greenlighted by unproduced pilots. It has been reported today that ABC may be mulling a pullout from the traditional broadcast development model that involves producing costly pilots for shows that might not air. Setting up writers rooms with an eye toward straight-to-series orders is considered a viable alternative to the pilot model.

The first eight-episode season OfWomen of the Movement is inspired by the book Emmett Till: The Murder That Shocked the World and Propelled the Civil Rights Movement by Devery S. Anderson. It will center on Emmett Till’s mother, Mamie Till, who devoted her life to seeking justice in her son’s name following his brutal murder in the Jim Crow South.

Women of the Movement is being written/exec produced by Cerar and executive produced by Jay-Z, Jay Brown and Tyran “Ty Ty” Smith of Roc Nation; Will Smith and James Lassiter of Westbrook Entertainment; Aaron Kaplan and Dana Honor from Kapital Entertainment; Rosanna Grace of Serendipity Film Group; Alex Foster and John Powers Middleton of The Middleton Media Group; and David Clark at Mazo Partners.

ABC has been high on the project, buying the pitch with a significant penalty last summer. The network, which has a renewed female focus, has been looking to return to the tentpole event limited series field it once ruled with hugely popular programs like the 1977 Roots.

Emmett Till was only 14 in 1955 when, while visiting relatives in Mississippi, he was tortured and murdered for reportedly asking a young white woman out on a date.

Till’s mother Mamie insisted on an open-casket public funeral, with the image of the boy’s mutilated body shocking the country. She later did a very successful tour for the NAACP telling the story of her son, which is considered a tipping point for the civil rights movement.