‘For Justice’ May Bring ‘Selma’ Director’s Voice to Television

Tobias Schwarz/AFP/Getty Images

Tobias Schwarz/AFP/Getty Images

Selma director Ava DuVernay is moving further into the small screen space. Just a week after announcing a new project for the OWN channel, the filmmaker has also signed on to direct a civil rights drama pilot for CBS, entitled For Justice.

The upcoming pilot is based on James Patterson’s debut novel The Thomas Berryman Number, which centers on the desperate manhunt triggered after a hit man is hired to assassinate the first black mayor of Nashville. For Justice will explore the effects the events in the novel had on today’s society. According to The Hollywood Reporter, it centers on an FBI agent who works in the Criminal Section of the Department of Civil Rights Division and finds herself caught between the radical family she was born into and the professional family she has chosen.

Patterson will executive produce the drama alongside DuVernay, Robert DeNiro, Jane Rosenthal, Bill Robinson, Leopoldo Gout, and CBS Television Studios’ Berry Welsh. Per THR, Law & Order‘s Rene Balcer will also executive produce and pen the script.

DuVernay is coming off a career hot streak, thanks to her work on last year’s Selma. The filmmaker has seen a significant rise in profile after her directorial efforts on the historical drama film, which earned four Golden Globe nominations, including one for DuVernay for Best Director. It also garnered two Academy Award nods, with one in the Best Picture category.

Now, it seems the director is on the verge of making just as big an impact on television. Though For Justice would mark her pilot directing debut, it wouldn’t be her first time behind the camera of a broadcast network TV show. DuVernay previous small screen directing credits include an episode in the third season of ABC’s popular political drama, Scandal.

For Justice isn’t the only television project that DuvVernay currently has in the works. The announcement of the upcoming CBS pilot comes only a week after it was revealed that the director is also bringing Natalie Baszile’s novel, Queen Sugar, to screen on the OWN network. DuVernay will write, direct, and executive produce the adaptation, which follows a woman and her teen daughter after they leave their upscale Los Angeles life to claim their inheritance of an 800-acre Louisiana sugar cane farm. The project marks her first ever television series and also reunites her with Oprah Winfrey, who served as a cast member and executive producer for Selma. Winfrey will executive produce again in Queen Sugar, as well as appear in multiple episodes in a recurring role.

While it’s obvious that DuVernay is about to make a name for herself in mainstream TV, that doesn’t mean that she’s done with feature films just yet. The director has a notable big screen project underway, in addition to her forthcoming television shows. As she announced in late January, she’s re-teaming with David Oyelowo, another of her Selma stars, to develop a movie set against the backdrop of 2005’s Hurricane Katrina. Though few details regarding the plot have been released, the film has been described as “a sweeping love story and complex murder mystery” that takes place in Louisiana after the devastating hurricane.

Given the subject matter, For Justice seems like a perfect match for DuVernay’s strong voice. The director has made it clear that she’s not afraid to tackle tough but crucial topics, like civil rights and work and family dynamics. With so many TV and film projects on the way, it’s evident that DuVernay’s influence in bringing these issues to screen is only just beginning.

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