In what’s starting to become a familiar phrase, a prestige filmmaker is heading to Amazon to make a TV series. Before his film won the Oscar for Best Picture, Moonlight director Barry Jenkins already settled on his follow-up project: a TV series adaptation of the bestselling Colson Whitehead novel The Underground Railroad. But now the project has found a home, as Deadline reports that Amazon has made a script-to-series commitment for Jenkins’ limited drama series take on the material, produced by Jenkins, Plan B, and Adele Romanski. It’s unclear if Jenkins plans to write and direct all of the episodes, but given that this is a limited series and as such a close-ended story, it would certainly make sense.
Underground Railroad made waves when it hit bookshelves last year, earning the praise of many notable figures including President Barack Obama. The story follows Cora, a young girl who makes a desperate run for freedom in the antebellum South. But when she sets out to find the rumored Underground Railroad, she discovers a literal railroad that actually exists, operating on a secret network of track and tunnels underneath the Southern ground.
Speaking about the alternate history drama series, Jenkins had high praise for its mix of fact and fantasy:
“Going back to The Intuitionist, Colson’s writing has always defied convention, and The Underground Railroad is no different. It’s a groundbreaking work that pays respect to our nation’s history while using the form to explore it in a thoughtful and original way. Preserving the sweep and grandeur of a story like this requires bold, innovative thinking and in Amazon we’ve found a partner whose reverence for storytelling and freeness of form is wholly in line with our vision.”
Jenkins is merely the latest in a line of esteemed filmmakers who are heading to television for longform storytelling. David Fincher, Steven Soderbergh, and Cary Joji Fukunaga paved the way, but recently Amazon has been making serious bids with the likes of Woody Allen and David O. Russell coming into the fold, and they also nabbed the highly anticipated new anthology series from Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner.
Fresh off his Oscar win, Jenkins heading to Amazon is a major coup for the streaming service and further proof that prestige TV is where some of the most fascinating storytelling is happening right now.