Continuing a largely unimpeachable line of controversial and ambitious mini-series, films, and projects, HBO is partnering with Will Smith, Jay-Z, and Aaron Kaplan to bring the story of Emmett Till to the small screen. For those who were too busy flirting with Cindy Sanders or just goofing off during history class to remember, Till was a 14-year-old who was kidnapped, beaten, tortured, and shot in 1955 for supposedly flirting with a white 21-year-old woman. The brutal slaying was perpetrated by Roy Bryant, the woman’s husband, and J.W. Milam, who famously used the excuse that Till thought he was “as good as any white man” for his crime; they were both acquitted of the murder charge. The series is currently in active development, with Smith and Jay-Z just recently closing their respective deals as producers.
It’s unclear as to what the angle for the series would be, as the planned six-part series has yet to be even written yet, let alone planned in terms of direction or production schedule. As Hollywood slowly begins to embrace more stories centered on the struggles of African Americans (12 Years a Slave, The Butler, Selma, etc.), HBO has been diving in head first with both this project and the in-production Confirmation, which tells the infuriating story of Clarence Thomas III’s (Wendell Pierce) bumpy confirmation hearing, which weathered sexual harassment charges filed by former colleague Anita Hill, played by Kerry Washington. And as much as Till’s story has become one of the most infamous and memorable horrors to come out of the end of the antebellum South, there’s plenty of the story that hasn’t been actively considered in terms of envisioning Till as a young man, and the time, place, and atmosphere that he lived under and allowed for his killing. Needless to say, anticipation for this project is rightly overwhelming, and the sheer clout of Smith and Jay-Z gives the work more than enough coverage to get fearless with their depiction of Till.