'Moonlight' Director Barry Jenkins To Turn Last Year's Biggest Book Into A TV Series

The movie of 2016 was, according to most standards, “Moonlight,” a gorgeous coming-of-age film that took home (with no small fanfare) the coveted Oscar for Best Picture. The book of 2016, on the other hand, was easily Colson Whithead’s The Underground Railroad, earning not only Oprah’s stamp of approval but the National Book Award, too.

So who better to adapt Whitehead’s critically acclaimed novel than the man behind “Moonlight,” Barry Jenkins?

According to Variety, Jenkins will write and direct a TV adaptation of The Underground Railroad, a one-hour drama series currently in development with Amazon. The New York Times reports that the show will be executive produced by Pastel, a company co-founded by Jenkins, and Brad Pitt’s Plan B Entertainment.

“Going back to ‘The Intuitionist,’ Colson’s writing has always defied convention, and ‘The Underground Railroad’ is no different,” Jenkins told Variety. “It’s a groundbreaking work that pays respect to our nation’s history while using the form to explore it in a thoughtful and original way. Preserving the sweep and grandeur of a story like this requires bold, innovative thinking and in Amazon we’ve found a partner whose reverence for storytelling and freeness of form is wholly in line with our vision.”

The Underground Railroad, described by HuffPost’s Claire Fallon as “an instant classic,” tells a story of the eponymous railroad familiar to students of American history, filtered through the lens of speculative fiction. The book centers on Cora, a young woman enslaved on a Georgia plantation, who descends into a literal subway system in an attempt to escape into freedom.

“This book has kept me up at night, had my heart in my throat, almost afraid to turn the next page,” Oprah explained in her review of the book.

Adapting Railroad isn’t Jenkins’ first foray into TV. He directed an episode of the upcoming Netflix adaptation of the movie “Dear White People” and an episode of the PBS series “Futurestates.”

According to the NYT, the Amazon production has not officially received the green light; it’s been in development for months, but it’s unclear when it will arrive or how many episodes it will span. If it gets the definitive go-ahead, the show will skip Amazon’s typical pilot procedure and move straight to series.

It’s pretty safe to say this TV show, if and when it comes to fruition, will be a must-see.

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