Showtime picks up Chicago-based pilot from Common

Chicago native Common is executive producing a pilot for Showtime.

Showtime has ordered up a pilot produced by hip-hop artist and actor Common that’s slated to begin filming in Chicago later this year.

The hour-long drama is billed as a “relevant, timely and distinctive coming-of-age story of a young African-American male in which just growing up can be a matter of life and death.” It’s set on Chicago’s South Side, where Common grew up, and is written by fellow Chicago native Lena Waithe (“Dear White People,” “Bones”).

Lena Waithe | Showtime

Lena Waithe | Showtime

“Her script really knocked me out,” said Showtime chief David Nevins, who made the announcement Tuesday at the TV critics’ press tour in Beverly Hills, Calif.

Grammy and Academy Award-winner Common (“Selma,” “Hell on Wheels”) will produce the project. Clark Johnson (“Homeland,” “The Wire”) is on board to direct.

“The two creative forces behind the show, both hailing from Chicago’s South Side, give this pilot an unparalleled authenticity,” Nevins said in a written statement. “Lena Waithe is an extremely fresh, talented young writer with a unique voice and a deeply thoughtful perspective into the world where she grew up. I immediately gravitated to her script, which is emotional, funny, tragic and relevant, all at once.  And, we are so fortunate to have artist and visionary Common for his first producing project in scripted television.”

Multi-hyphenate Waithe is a writer, producer and actor named “one of 10 comics to watch” by Variety. She produced the indie film “Dear White People,” winner of a Special Jury Prize at Sundance. Her writing credits include the Fox drama “Bones” and the viral video “Shit Black Girls Say.”

Common won a Golden Globe and Oscar for best original song for “Glory” in the film “Selma,” where he co-starred as ’60s Civil Rights leader James Bevel.

Common as Elam Ferguson in "Hell on Wheels." | AMC

Common as Elam Ferguson in “Hell on Wheels.” | AMC

If the pilot gets picked up to series, it will join a robust field of scripted TV dramas filming in Chicago, including “Chicago Fire,” “Chicago P.D.,” “Chicago Med” and “Empire.” Showtime’s long-running series “Shameless” also comes to Chicago about twice a year to film exteriors.

Nevins also announced the net has ordered a pilot produced by Jim Carrey. Titled “I’m Dying up Here,” the hour-long dark comedy revolves around L.A.’s stand-up scene in the ’70s. It’s written and executive produced by former stand-up comedian Dave Flebotte (“Will & Grace,” “The Bernie Mac Show”) and is scheduled to begin shooting in the fall.


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