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New TV Prison Drama with Scarlett Johanssen

Marion Charatan

Posted on November 29, 2022 16:07

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The 38-year-old Oscar nominee is gearing up for her first small screen role in "Just Cause." She'll star as an investigative journalist covering a convicted man's final days. Christy Hall will write and co-executive produce the limited series for Warner Brothers TV.

Death row and prison stories sell. The public has a love affair with tales of hard luck, prison, and capital punishment. Movies like The Shawshank Redemption (1994) which starred Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman, offer a peek into the harsh reality of the penal system. Although the film, based on a novella by Stephen King, did not win any Oscars, it was nominated for seven that year. 

In 1999, The Green Mile scrutinized a wrongly convicted black man (Michael Clark Duncan) accused of the rape and murder of a young white girl. He faces the horrors of being on death row under the watch of a civilized prison Captain Tom Hanks and a sadistic younger guard (Doug Hutchison). Dead Man Walking is another glimpse into life on death row with a nun, played by Susan Sarandon, offering solace to convicted killer Sean Penn. Sister Helen Prejean wrote the best seller, which examines the conflicts between state-sanctioned executions, morality, and empathy for both victims, their families, and alleged perpetrators. 

More recently, Just Mercy and Clemency (2019 releases) demonstrated the moral dilemma presented by the death penalty and whether it should exist at all--as mistakes can happen. 

There are too many examples of fictitious or true crime stories to list. But they sell and do well on TV. Orange is the New Black ended in 2019--but it was wildly popular. The TV series highlighted how a legal misstep could adversely affect one's life. I think the appeal of prison and death row projects is that we look directly into the belly of the beast and ultimately realize our lives are not as bad as we thought they were. For some, it's cathartic.

Scarlett Johannsen understands what sells and has decided to sign on as Executive Producer for a new TV series Just Cause that looks intriguing. The show is based on the 1992 novel written by John Katzenbach. This is not the actress's first time associated with the project. When she was only ten years old, Johannsen appeared in a film version of the book with a powerhouse cast including Sean Connery, Ruby Dee, Kate Capshaw, Laurence Fishburne, Ed Harris, and Blair Underwood. She portrayed the daughter of Harvard professor Paul Armstrong (Connery). Armstrong travels down to Florida to investigate the murder conviction of Bobby Earl Ferguson, played by Underwood. 

The actress is known worldwide for her role as Natasha Romanoff (Black Widow) in the Marvel Cinematic Universe franchise. The Oscar-nominated artist won a BAFTA Film Award as Best Actress for Lost in Translation (2003), the critically acclaimed film directed by Sofia Coppola set in Japan. 

Although Johannsen, recognized as a great beauty, has never won an Oscar, she was still the world's highest-paid actress in 2018 and 2019. For her upcoming TV project, Johanssen plays Madison Cowart, a floundering Florida newspaper journalist covering a death row inmate's last days. She will co-executive produce. The release date is TBD.

 

Marion Charatan

Posted on November 29, 2022 16:07

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Source: NYT

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