Upfronts ’15: CNN readies series with Spacey, Aslan

The U.S. broadcaster has enlisted House of Cards actor Kevin Spacey (pictured) for a six-part docuseries, and will also air series featuring author Reza Aslan and comedian W. Kamau Bell.
March 10, 2015

U.S. broadcaster CNN has enlisted House of Cards actor Kevin Spacey (pictured) for a six-part docuseries, in addition to other series with author Reza Aslan and comedian W. Kamau Bell.

Titled Race for the White House, the series – which is part of CNN’s Original Series slate for 2016 – will be exec produced by Spacey and producing partner Dana Brunetti and co-produced by the team’s prodco Trigger Street Productions and Gold Rush firm Raw TV. In the Netflix drama House of Cards, Spacey plays fictional U.S. president Frank Underwood.

According to CNN, each Spacey-narrated episode is to explore the story of a single campaign, and will feature previously unseen archival footage as well as interviews with “key players and dramatic recreations.”

“From powerful campaign speeches to the dirty tricks and Machiavellian schemes, Race for the White House will capture the drama of how a high-stakes presidential election can turn on a single issue and so much more,” reads a release by the network.

“We are absolutely thrilled to have Kevin Spacey and Dana Brunetti bring their world-class talent to CNN,” said Jeff Zucker, president of CNN Worldwide, in a statement.

“When we created the CNN Original Series brand, this is exactly the type of programming we had in mind and Race for the White House will be the perfect complement to our coverage of the 2016 campaigns and election,” he added.

In other news, the broadcaster has also ordered a “spiritual adventure” series tentatively titled Believer and hosted by author and religious studies scholar Reza Aslan. Produced by Whalerock Industries, the show is to feature Aslan engaging in endurance worship, rituals and various rites of passage in order to learn about “rarefied worlds that have been molded by faith and tradition.”

A third commission for CNN Original Series is the docuseries United Shades of America, featuring comedian W. Kamau BellThe Objective Productions-made show will feature Bell exploring U.S. subcultures. According to a release by the broadcaster, “The series will strive to show the United States is not built upon just one, but many diverse and colorful definitions of America.”

Elsewhere, CNN is to premiere five documentaries in 2016, including Alex Gibney‘s Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine, which is bowing at the SXSW Film Festival in Austin, Texas, this week (March 14); Janet Tobias’ Unseen Enemy, on the deadly pathogens that could create the next global pandemic, set for theatrical release this fall; and Marah Strauch’s Sunshine Superman, on BASE jumping pioneer Carl Boenish, which bowed at the Toronto International Film Festival last fall and will hit theaters in May.

Remaining docs include an as-yet-untitled project by Jenny Carchman on the rise and fall of self-help personality James Arthur Ray, and an untitled project by Lydia Tengalia on chef Jeremiah Tower, who has founded such restaurants as San Francisco’s Stars and New York’s Tavern on the Green. The film is to be released in 2016.

Each documentary is a copro with CNN Films and is expected to debut in theaters prior to their broadcasts on CNN.

Finally, the broadcaster will this summer bring back series The Hunt with John Walsh (ZeroPointZero Productions) and Death Row Stories (Jigsaw/Sundance Productions) as well as This is Life with Lisa Ling (part2 Pictures), Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown (ZeroPointZero Productions) and Mike Rowe’s Somebody’s Gotta Do it (Pilgrim Studios).

Among the shows returning to CNN in 2016 are Anthony Bourdain Parts Unknown - which has been picked up for an additional two cycles next year – and new seasons of Morgan Spurlock Inside Man, Mike Rowe’s Somebody’s Gotta Do It and The Hunt with John Walsh.

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