Annaleigh Ashford To Headline ‘Happy Face’ Paramount+ Series; Michael Showalter To Direc

Paramount+‘s long-in-the-works crime drama series Happy Face is headed to production with Emmy-nominated and Tony-winning actor Annaleigh Ashford (Welcome to Chippendales, Impeachment: American Crime Story) set as the lead.

Michael Showalter (The Dropout, The Eyes of Tammy Faye) has been tapped to direct the first episode of the CBS Studios-produced series, from executive producers Jennifer Cacicio – who also serves as showrunner – and Robert and Michelle King. Filming on the eight-episode first season is slated to begin production this year for a 2025 premiere on Paramount+.

Happy Face reunites Ashford with the Kings, having guest-starred on their other two Paramount+/CBS Studios original series — the current hit Evil and the recently wrapped The Good Fight.

The CBS Studios-produced Happy Face is inspired by the true-life story of Melissa Moore; the Happy Face podcast from iHeartPodcasts and Moore; and the autobiography Shattered Silence, written by Moore with M. Bridget Cook.

At 15, Moore discovered that her beloved father was the prolific serial killer known as “Happy Face.” As an adult, the former Dr. Oz contributor has changed her name and guarded her secret while her father has been serving life in prison.

Ashford will play the lead role of Melissa. Jumping off from Moore’s true-life story, in the TV adaptation, Melissa’s father contacts her to take credit for another victim, pulling her into an extraordinary investigation of her father and his crimes. As she discovers the impact her father had on his victims’ families, she must face a reckoning of her own identity.

Cacicio, Robert and Michelle King, Liz Glotzer, Melissa Moore, Conal Byrne, Will Pearson, Showalter and Jordana Mollick executive produce. Happy Face is produced by CBS Studios in association with King Size Productions, iHeartPodcasts and Semi-Formal Productions. The series, which was put into development in 2020 by Paramount+ predecessor CBS All Access and ordered to series in 2021, is distributed by Paramount Global Content Distribution.

Ashford recently wrapped production on Searchlight Pictures’ upcoming horror thriller Dust, which stars Sarah Paulson. She is nominated for an Emmy for her performance opposite Kumail Nanjiani in the Hulu limited series Welcome to Chippendales. Ashford portrayed Paula Jones in FX’s Impeachment: American Crime Story and starred in the CBS sitcom B Positive.

On stage, Ashford won Tony, Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle awards for the Broadway revival of You Can’t Take It with You. She currently stars as Mrs. Lovett opposite Josh Groban in the Tony-nominated revival of Stephen Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, for which she received a Tony nomination for Best Actress in a Musical and a Grammy nomination for the Broadway cast recording. She is repped by CAA, Beth Rosner Management and Schreck Rose Dapello.