Nellie Andreeva

How is this for intriguing mix of creative auspices — filmmaker Spike Lee, former boxing champion Mike Tyson and Entourage creator Doug Ellin have come together to produce a drama series project for HBO, written by John Ridley and to be directed by Lee. The project, titled Da Brick, is described as a contemporary exploration of what it means to be a young, black man in supposedly post-racial America and is loosely inspired by aspects of Tyson’s youth. Is its set in current-day Newark, NJ, nicknamed “brick city.” While the project is still in development, HBO has hired a casting director to explore casting choices for the lead, looking for young black actors who are also credible in the boxing ring.

Tyson appeared in a 2010 episode of Ellin’s HBO comedy series Entourage, playing himself. The original germ of an idea for Da Brick came out of a meeting the two had on the set of the veteran comedy, which was inspired by Mark Wahlberg’s early years in Hollywood. “That’s when Mike asked me, why don’t do with my life what we did with Mark’s life,” Ellin said. “The initial idea was ‘Entourage meets The Wire‘, an edgy story about an up-and-coming boxer and his crew that is much more dramatic than Entourage.” While it was not a series Ellin felt he would write, he and his producing partner Jim Lefkowitz decided to develop and produce it through their company. Lefkowitz brought in writer Ridley who, in turn, brought in Lee, with whom he had been developing a movie about the L.A. riots. Ellin, Lefkowitz, Ridley, Lee and Tyson are all executive producing Da Brick, with Tyson’s wife Lakiha Tyson and Azim Spicer, CEO of Las Vegas’ SpiceReel Prods., co-executive producing.

Both Ellin and Lee have long history at HBO. Ellin’s series Entourage returns for its eighth and final season next month. Under his deal at the pay cable network, Ellin wrote the comedy script 40, which has been picked up to pilot with Ed Burns on board to star. Da Brick marks Ellin’s first HBO project, which he is not writing, with him and Lefkowitz planning to do more of those as they expand their company’s development. Lee directed and produced the HBO New Orleans documentary When the Levees Broke and its follow-up, If God Is Willing and Da Creek Don’t Rise. Ellin is with WME, Lee and Ridley with CAA.

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