Director of Best Picture Oscar winner Moonlight to film slavery drama for Amazon

Barry Jenkins, the writer and director of Moonlight, in front of one of his childhood homes in the Liberty City neighborhood of Miami.
Barry Jenkins, the writer and director of Moonlight, in front of one of his childhood homes in the Liberty City neighborhood of Miami. PHOTO: NYT

NEW YORK (NYTimes)- Barry Jenkins, the writer and director of Moonlight, which was named Best Picture at last month's Academy Awards, is teaming again with that film's producers for a new TV series for Amazon.

The Underground Railroad will be an adaptation of the acclaimed Colson Whitehead novel of the same title, winner of the 2016 National Book Award for fiction.

As with Moonlight, adapted from an original script by the playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney, Jenkins will write and direct the limited series, which will be executive produced by Pastel, a company co-founded by Jenkins, and Brad Pitt's Plan B Entertainment.

The project has been in the works for months but Amazon announced on Monday that it had signed on to develop the series.

"Preserving the sweep and grandeur of a story like this requires bold, innovative thinking," Jenkins said in a statement. "In Amazon we've found a partner whose reverence for storytelling and freeness of form is wholly in line with our vision."

Whitehead's novel combines historical sweep with surreal details, tracking a young slave who escapes from bondage via an actual railroad.

It was a best-seller and was one of last year's most celebrated books.

The underground railroad already figures in one series: Underground, a generally well-received drama for WGN America that began its second season this month.

It is unclear when The Underground Railroad would debut on Amazon or how many episodes it would include.

The series has not officially been given the green light, though the high-profile nature of the title and figures involved make that seem likely.

If it is approved, the show would skip Amazon's usual pilot process and go straight to series.