EXCLUSIVE: After eight years at Universal TV, drama writer-producer Liz Heldens is moving to Sony Pictures TV. In a competitive situation, with multiple studios pursuing, Sony TV has signed a two-year overall deal with Heldens that is focused on development. Heldens is a prolific creator. At Universal TV, she conceived the 2009 NBC 2009 medical drama Mercy, 2013 mystery drama Deception and co-created the network’s summer series Camp. This past season, she wrote the Texas mega-church project Salvation, which went to pilot at NBC with Ashley Judd starring. Before segueing to development, WME-repped Heldens spent three seasons on the NBC/DirecTV critically praised drama Friday Night Lights.
Liz Heldens, creator of NBC‘s 2009 medical drama Mercy and last season’s mystery drama Deception and co-creator of the network’s summer series Camp, is a step away from returning to NBC’s primetime with a pilot order for her latest project, drama Salvation. Produced by Universal TV and David Janollari’s studio-based David Janollari Entertainment, Salvation is a family saga set against the backdrop of a Texas mega church where faith, family and corruption are explored in equal measure. The pilot centers on Jennifer Strickland, who has to defend her children, church and religious beliefs after her husband dies under mysterious circumstances. Heldens wrote the script and is executive producing with Janollari. This marks the first pilot order for Janollari, in the first year of an overall deal at NBC. It is NBC’s seventh drama pilot as the network has been particularly aggressive, ordering 14 pilots (7 comedy, 7 drama) and two straight to series projects (Tina Fey/Robert Carlock and Mr. Robinson) so far.
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Liz Heldens, creator of NBC‘s 2009 medical drama Mercy, midseason mystery drama Deception and co-creator of the network’s summer series Camp, is back at NBC with another hourlong project. Produced by Universal TV and David Janollari’s studio-based David Janollari Entertainment, the untitled drama is a big family saga set against the backdrop of a Texas mega church. When the leader of the Spring Hill Congregation dies, the matriarch of the Strickland family rallies to keep the family together in a show about faith and family and all the complications that come with both. WME-repped Heldens is writing the script and executive producing with Janollari. This marks the latest sale for Janollari in his first season as a producer following a long executive stint. They include two put pilot commitments.
Ray Richmond is contributing to Deadline’s TCA coverage.
Given that a pair of its primary lead performers happen to be African American, it might seem logical to assume that the ethnicity of stars Meagan Good and Laz Alonso would be somehow interwoven into the storyline of the midseason NBC soap ensemble Deception (formerly Infamous) that premieres tomorrow night at 10. But this assumption would be wrong, as showrunner Liz Heldens stressed during an afternoon TCA panel. Good portrays a police detective investigating a possible homicide, while Alonso plays an FBI agent and her former flame. “I guess the way it all shook out, (the ethnicity of Good and Alonso) is a way of sort of dealing with race without actually having to talk about it,” Heldens said. “But it’s not something we really talk about too much in the writers room…I just think it is sort of there. I’m not sure what we could put in the characters’ mouths that would speak louder than the fact of what you’re looking at on-screen.” Heldens pointed out that there certainly was no specific intent to cast African Americans in the roles, but that when Good originally came in to read “she just walked in and owned it. It was fantastic.”
Ahead of the debut of NBC‘s midseason drama Deception tomorrow, the network has given a straight-to-series order to another hourlong project from the Deception team of creator/executive producer Liz Heldens and Gail Berman and Lloyd Braun’s production company BermanBraun. Created by Heldens and Deception co-executive producer Peter Elkoff, Camp has been picked up for 13 episodes to air in the summer. This will be Heldens and BermanBraun’s third series on NBC following medical drama Mercy, which Heldens also created, and Deception. Elkoff also worked with Heldens on Mercy.
In the tradition of Meatballs and Dazed And Confused, Little Hawk Family Camp is a wicked slice of lake-side heaven. In the one-hour dramedy, parents decompress with gin while teenagers make gleeful mischief and fall in and out of love. “In our desire to make summer an exciting place at NBC along with our signature unscripted shows like America’s Got Talent, The Voice and American Ninja Warrior, we developed a scripted dramedy we love with BermanBraun that has rich and dysfunctional characters in that great setting where millions of families and young people go each summer: camp,” said NBC Entertainment president Jennifer Salke. “Most of us have had great experiences at camp, and this show — created by two of our favorite producers, Liz Heldens and Peter Elkoff — is sophisticated, funny, and emotional, and we think it will be the ideal summer series for us.” Camp will be produced by Matchbox Pictures (The Slap) and BermanBraun. Heldens and Elkoff executive produce with Berman, Braun and Gene Stein. Production is scheduled to begin in Australia in March.