TVBizwire

HBO Orders Drama Starring James Gandolfini Deadline

HBO is back in the drama business with James Gandolfini, with whom the pay-cable network had a wildly successful run with “The Sopranos.”

Deadline.com reports that HBO has given a pilot order to “Criminal Justice,” with Gandolfini leading an ensemble cast that also includes Rizwan Ahmed, Bill Camp, Peyman Moadi and Poorna Jagannathan.

The project is “co-written by Oscar-wining writer Steven Zaillian (‘Schindler’s List’) and Oscar nominee Richard Price (‘The Color of Money’) and [will] be directed by Zaillian,” the report notes. “’Criminal Justice’ is a New York-set crime drama based on the acclaimed 2008 BBC series of the same name created by Peter Moffat.”

Deadline reports: “The original series consisted of two five-episode seasons, each chronicling the journey of a person charged with murder through the justice system, and each featuring new characters and cast. HBO’s version follows the plot of the first season of the British series, which starred Ben Whishaw as Ben Coulter, a young man who takes his father’s cab for a drive and picks up a party girl who takes him to her apartment for a drunken and drug-filled night out. When he wakes up in the morning, Ben finds the girl stabbed to death and, though he can’t remember committing the crime, he is soon charged with it.”

In the U.S. version, the lead character will be a young American-born Pakistani named Naz, to be played by Ahmed, the story notes.

“Gandolfini plays Jack Stone, a disheveled jailhouse lawyer wearing cheap suits and sandals, who trolls for clients at police precincts,” the report adds. “That’s where he sees Naz in a holding cell and appoints himself his attorney. (The character is expected to continue if the series is renewed for additional seasons.) Camp plays the lead detective on the case.”

HBO has been eager to find a suitable vehicle for Gandolfini to follow up on the success of “Sopranos.” Gandolfini has had deals with the pay cabler since 2006. “He has flirted with a number of HBO projects, including an U.S. version of the hit French Canadian comedy series ‘Taxi-22,’ and ‘Big Dead Place,’ a comedic drama set in the Antarctic, but ‘Criminal Justice’ is the first project that he committed to and that is moving to production,” the story reports.

james-gandolfini2.jpgJames Gandolfini