Starz acquires Penn & Roberts-led Gaslit series, Minus Hammer & Edgerton
Just over a year after the Watergate drama was first announced to be in development at Universal Content Productions, Starz has acquired the Sean Penn (Milk, Mystic River) and Julia Roberts (Homecoming)-starring anthology drama Gaslit.
The first season, based on Slate’s award-winning podcast “Slow Burn'”s first season and developed by showrunner Robbie Pickering (Mr. Robot), is a modern take on Watergate that focuses on the untold stories and forgotten characters of the scandal – from Nixon’s bumbling, opportunistic subordinates, to the deranged zealots aiding and abetting their crimes, to the tragic whistleblowers who would eventually bring the whole rotten enterprise crashing down.
“I’m so happy to have the opportunity to share the heartbreaking, fascinating story of Martha Mitchell with the world,” Pickering said in a statement. “Martha was the first and loudest voice to speak out against the bumbling criminality of a crooked Presidential administration and she was one of the most complicated public martyrs of the era. To find anyone willing to tell her story is a dream. To be making it with Sam, Julia, Sean, Matt, UCP and Starz seems impossible. I’m over the moon.”
The story will center on Martha Mitchell, played by Roberts. A big personality with an even bigger mouth, Martha is a celebrity Arkansan socialite and wife to Nixon’s loyal Attorney General, John Mitchell, played by Penn. Despite her party affiliation, she’s the first person to publicly sound the alarm on Nixon’s involvement in Watergate, causing both the Presidency and her personal life to unravel. As Attorney General, Mitchell is Nixon’s most trusted advisor and best friend. Temperamental, foulmouthed and ruthless – yet hopelessly in love with his famously outspoken wife – he’ll be forced to choose between Martha and the President.
“In Gaslit, we not only have the opportunity to tell an incredible untold story in bringing Martha Mitchell’s historic role in Watergate to the forefront, but we are also incredibly lucky to have a dream cast including Julia and Sean and the best creative team and partners we could have asked for,” Christina Davis, President of Original Programming for Starz, said in a statement. “We could not be more excited to bring this story to the global Starz audience and continue the network’s commitment to spotlighting premium stories that appeal to women while super serving our core audience.”
In addition to Pickering and director Matt Ross (Captain Fantastic), the series will be executive produced by Sam Esmail (Mr. Robot) under his overall deal with UCP and Chad Hamilton (Mr. Robot) under their Esmail Corp. production banner, Roberts via her Red Om Films label, Anonymous Content and Slate’s Gabriel Roth and Josh Levin. It marks a reunion between Esmail and Roberts after the two worked together on the Golden Globe-nominated first season of Amazon’s Homecoming.
Alongside Penn and Roberts, the series was originally set to co-star Armie Hammer (The Social Network) and Joel Edgerton (The Gift, Boy Erased) as Nixon’s former White House Counsel attorney John Dean and former FBI agent and chief operative of Nixon’s White House Plumbers unit G. Gordon Liddy, though sources report that both roles are being recast.
(Photo Credit: Steve Granitz/WireImage)