No Way Back, a drama series project based on the 2013 mystery/thriller novel by best-selling author Andrew Gross, has landed at ABC with a put pilot commitment. 20th Century Fox TV and studio-based Imagine TV are producing the project, written by Jessica Sharzer, currently co-executive producer on FX/20th TV’s American Horror Story. Sharzer and Imagine TV’s Brian Grazer and Francie Calfo executive produce. No Way Back centers on two women who join forces and embark on a dangerous odyssey to find the truth and save their lives. One is a suburban mother and ex-cop, whose chance meeting with a stranger in a hotel ends when the man is murdered and she’s the only witness. The other is a young woman from Mexico who has a deadly secret that has driven her into hiding until she can prove her innocence. It’s a desperate hunt that leads them into a nefarious web of treachery, lies and corruption involving drug lords, arm dealers and shadowy figures in the highest echelons of government.
Q&A: Imagine’s Brian Grazer On ‘Arrested Development’ & ’24′s Comebacks, More ‘Development’ In Works & New Projects
Imagine Television is not giving up easily on its shows. Within the past year, the production company of Brian Grazer and Ron Howard managed to revive both of its signature series, the Emmy-winning Arrested Development and 24. Arrested Development got a new season on Netflix, while 24 is coming back as an event series for Fox. Both were able to do it with their key auspices and stars on board. Imagine now has five shows on the air, a record for the 20th TV-based company. They are returning NBC dramedy Parenthood, which landed the high-profile Thursday 10 slot for fall, new dramas Gang Related on Fox, from hot Fast & The Furious writer Chris Morgan, and Those Who Kill on A&E starring Chloe Sevigny, as well as Arrested and 24: Live Another Day. The company also has an animated presentation at Fox with 50 Cent loosely based on the rapper’s childhood and Conquest, a sweeping period drama at Showtime that has Howard attached to direct. In an interview, Grazer and Imagine TV president Francie Calfo talk about how Arrested Development and 24 came back, whether there would be another season of Arrested, how 24 foreshadowed the era of binge-viewing and what new projects the company is working on, including a hybrid comedy/reality presentation for Fox.
DEADLINE: Arrested Development‘s new season premiered more than seven years after the last original had aired on Fox. How were you able to resurrect the show and bring everyone back?
BRIAN GRAZER: It was an unified effort that was spearheaded by Mitch Hurwitz, Arrested Development‘s creator, producer and sometime director, and Ron Howard. They kept their arms wrapped around the subject of Arrested Development and were able to keep the team of actors unified, wanting to do the show. The key was finding a way to unlock it logistically. Gratefully, Mitch did. A lot of it was made possible by the success of the DVDs, which kept the show alive in the hearts of the minds of its core audience. Arrested Development is one of those shows that is one of the first things someone walking into our offices talks about, there has been such a desire for the show. Luckily, Ted (Sarandos) had the same experience on Netflix.
DEADLINE: Netflix executives recently indicated that they’re open to another season of Arrested Development. Will we see Season 5?
GRAZER: It’s up to Ted. If Ted is into it, we would be very excited то pursue it.
FRANCIE CALFO: It’s also up to Mitch, who is probably resting right now as he put everything he had into these episodes and hasn’t had a chance to think beyond that.
DEADLINE: What about the Arrested Development movie, which the new season was intended to lead to?
GRAZER:We’re hoping that we could do that; the popularity of the series will inform that decision.
EXCLUSIVE: Showtime entertainment president David Nevins is getting back in business with his former company Imagine TV in a big way. Showtime has put in development Conquest, a sweeping period drama that has been a passion project of Imagine principal Ron Howard. Oscar-winner Howard is attached to direct Conquest, which will be written by Oscar-nominated scribe Jose Rivera (The Motorcycle Diaries). Conquest, from Imagine TV and 20th Century Fox TV’s cable division Fox21, tells the story of famed Spanish Conquistador Hernan Cortes, who led the Spanish conquest in Mexico, and his clash with Moctezuma II, the last ruler of the Aztec Empire which fell at the hands of Cortes and his men. Filled with blood, lust, gold, magic and mythology, Conquest is described as “a classic war story about two powerful men and their people ultimately leading to the destruction of the Aztec culture and the men themselves.”
Imagine partners Ron Howard and Brian Grazer executive produce with Rivera and Imagine TV president Francie Calfo. Veteran Star Trek writer Hans Beimler, who was born in Mexico City, will serve as a consultant because of his knowledge of Aztec/Mexican history. Beimler worked with Howard over the years doing research on Cortes, initially for a feature. They ultimately found the project more suited to cable series and took it to Nevins, who had known of Howard’s passion for the subject from his years as Imagine TV president. The two sides waited for Rivera to become available and brought him on board to write.
Imagine Television has signed a new deal with 20th Century Fox Television, where the TV division of Ron Howard and Brian Grazer’s production company has been based since 2000. During its dozen years at 20th TV, Imagine has developed and produced such series as the Emmy-winning 24 and Arrested Development as well as Lie To Me and Shark. Imagine and 20th TV are behind the upcoming ABC comedy How To Live With Your Parents For The Rest Of Your Life. (Separately, Imagine TV also produces the NBC dramedy Parenthood with Universal TV.) “What we really like about them is that Imagine is attracted to unique ideas, their shows are never down the middle, they feel distinctive,” 20th TV chairman Gary Newman said. “Ron and Brian always look forward, trying to find something they feel passionate about, and out of that passion come great shots at television series.”
EXCLUSIVE: Veteran Imagine TV executive Robin Gurney, Senior EVP Development & Production, is leaving the company after a seven-year tenure. At the 20th Century Fox TV-based company, Gurney developed and produced such shows as Friday Night Lights, Shark, Lie To Me, Friends With Benefits and The Playboy Club. “I am very proud of the work I have a accomplished while at Imagine and will truly miss this amazing company” said Gurney. “Brian Grazer and Ron Howard are incredibly inspiring on so many levels and I am grateful for their continued support. That said, it is time to move on and I am excited to seek new professional challenges.”
In addition to Imagine principals Howard and Grazer, Gurney has worked at the company’s TV division with former Imagine TV president David Nevins and his successor, Francie Calfo. “Robin has been a tremendous asset to the company and a valued member of the Imagine family,” Grazer and Howard said in a statement. “While we are sad to see her leave we understand her desire to evolve and explore new avenues in the industry. We wish her the best in her new endeavors.” Gurney will remain in place to assist with the transition.