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J.J. Abrams is developing a project about Martin Luther King, Jr.’s final year

The cover of Tavis Smiley's Death Of A King

Soon, J.J. Abrams’ adaptation of Stephen King’s 11/22/63 will be coming to the small screen, with the James Franco-starring miniseries set to bow on Hulu sometime this year. Perhaps the story of Kennedy’s death has awakened in Abrams a desire to look into all of the assassinations of famous American leaders in the ’60s, because now Deadline reports that Abrams’ Bad Robot production company and Warner Bros. Television have optioned the rights to Tavis Smiley’s Death Of A King: The Real Story Of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Final Year.

Death Of A King recounts the story of MLK’s last year, during which he clashed with police and activists, was denounced by the media and criticized by the President, and suffered serious attacks on his tactics and person. It’s yet to be determined whether the project will be developed as a serialized drama or miniseries, although it’s possible that an unannounced late-night informercial on Adult Swim, à la Too Many Cooks, is also an option.


Along with Abrams and Bad Robot head of TV Ben Stephenson, Smiley will also serve as executive producer. This is actually the second announcement of an adaptation of his work this month, as it was previously announced that a stage adaptation of Smiley’s book My Journeys With Maya, about his friendship with Maya Angelou, was in development. Perhaps the progress of this project will follow in the footsteps of history, in which the series will initially be decried for demonizing whites and harming the country, and then, years later, everyone can insist that, no, they were on the side of Death Of A King all along, it’s just the new generation of televised civil rights biopics that are so much ruder and less dignified than they used to be.

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