Nellie Andreeva

NBC has closed a deal for a put pilot commitment to M.I.C.E., a drama from Peter Berg and Sarah Aubrey’s Film 44 based on the Israeli format The Gordin Cell. Berg is set to write and direct the pilot in his first pilot-writing effort since Friday Night Lights. Universal TV, where Film 44 is based, will produce with Israeli company Keshet Media Group, which is behind the original series, along with Israeli satcaster YES, which airs it, and Tedy Prods, which produces it.

The deal comes after a couple of months of negotiations among the parties involved in M.I.C.E., whose title is an acronym for Money, Ideology, Coercion and Ego, used to understand the motives of spies in betraying their countries. Gordin Cell revolves around the Gordin family and centers on Israeli-born Eyal Gordin, a decorated Israeli Air Force officer in a high-security post who loves his country and family. His parents Michael and Diana, Grandmother Nina and elder sister Natalia emigrated from the USSR in 1990. Eyal has no idea that his parents were Russian spies. When Miki and Diana’s former handler appears one day, demanding that they recruit their son into espionage activity (watch the scene below with English subtitles), Eyal faces an impossible dilemma: his cooperation with Russian intelligence determines his family’s fate, while his dedication to Israel’s homeland security tests his family allegiance.  His country, or his family… who will he choose to betray? Berg said the original plot “lands itself very easily to an American reinvention” as a drama set in the U.S. “There are still real issues between the U.S. and Russia — they’re spying on us, we’re spying on them.”

Berg will executive produce M.I.C.E. with Aubrey; Avi Nir, CEO of Keshet; Ron Lesham and Amit Cohen, who developed the original series; YES’ Yona Wiesenthal; and Giora Yahalom. “We at Keshet are grateful to have this opportunity, along with Peter and NBC, to tell the M.I.C.E. story to the American audiences,” Nir said.

Aubrey said she and Berg are “both obsessed with Homeland,” which is based on another Keshet series, Prisoners Of War. When their agent told them that there is a new Keshet format the company was looking to adapt in the U.S., “we knew it would be of really great quality,” Aubrey said. She and Berg saw a copy of the series five months ago and worked hard to get the rights in a very competitive situation. “I was instantly mesmerized by it,” Berg said of Gordin Cell. “I thought it was really smart, widely original, and it worked as a complex family drama and a very authentic, high-stakes espionage thriller.” Berg found that juxtaposition so unique that, for the first time since FNL, he said he felt “fired up” to throw himself completely into the project, including writing the script.

With Friday Night Lights, Berg handed off the show to Jason Katims after the pilot. Now, he plans to stick around, spending the first season working in the writers room and being involved with production. While he confesses he still loves making movies (Berg is currently prepping the Mark Wahlberg-starring Navy SEAL actioneer Lone Survivor, which he wrote and is directing), “I’m very excited about television right now,” he said. “I can’t think of a better time for television with shows like Homeland, Game Of Thrones and Breaking Bad where we see more and more of the unique point of view of television as well as depth and richness of characters we don’t see in film.”

Film 44’s series credits also include NBC’s praised Prime Suspect remake starring Maria Bello, and the non-scripted HBO series On Freddie Roach. Film 44 and Keshet are repped by WME, which brokered the deal. The second clip below is of Gordin Cell‘s opening credits.

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