HBO is developing Unruly, a six-episode limited series about boxing legend Jack Johnson, played by two-time Academy Award winner Maharshala Ali. The project descended from Tom Tonks and Gary Gotzman of Playtone will be written by Dominic Moreso based on the PBS documentary Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson by Ken Burns, and written by Geoffrey C. Ward.
Several times, Ali has stated that playing Johnson on screen was his “dream role” over the past two years. He previously portrayed athletes as one of his first professional acting jobs in the stage production of “Great White Hope” in 2000.
Described as an unapologetic black, Unruly introduces the story of Jack Johnson (Ali), the world’s first black heavyweight boxing champion. This daring series depicts the protagonist’s rise to sporting greatness and the costs he paid for his complexion’s colour and challenge, creating a blueprint for black resistance.
Marchall is an executive producer on Unruly via his production company “Wonder Wonder” and his wife Amatos Karim Ali and their co-producer Mimi Valdes. Bo Willimon will act as Co-Executive Producer alongside Playtone’s Stephen Christian.