Billed as a limited series, Good Lord Bird will star Hawke as John Brown, the real-life 19th-century abolitionist. During the Bleeding Kansas crisis, an enslaved teenager named Onion becomes a member of Brown’s motley family, eventually participating in the famous 1859 raid on the Army depot at Harpers Ferry. Though Brown’s raid failed to initiate the slave revolt he intended, it did spark the Civil War.
McBride’s historical fiction novel went on to win the National Book Award in 2013. He will serve as an executive producer on the project alongside Hawke.
“Good Lord Bird is one of my favorite books, told with wit, grace and wisdom by the great James McBride,” Hawke said in a statement. “Bringing this story to the screen has been a passion project of mine, and I am incredibly fortunate to have partners who are equally enthusiastic and are making it a reality — my wife and producing partner Ryan Hawke, and my longtime friends at [production company] Blumhouse. I’m looking forward to working for the first time with the talented folks at Showtime and [director] Anthony Hemingway – both of whom have made some of the best television in the last couple years.”
Added McBride, “This is just the right time for The Good Lord Bird. I wrote it to show we Americans are family — dysfunctional, screwy, funny, even dangerous to one another at times, but still family nonetheless. Old John Brown always had a knack for landing into the right place at the right time. I’m delighted he’s landed in the lap of one of America’s most gifted and literate actors. Ethan Hawke is special, and I’m thankful that Showtime and Blumhouse have shown faith and trust in one of America’s oddest, most profound and greatest heroes.”
A timetable for Good Lord Bird‘s debut has not been announced. Does it sound like something you’ll watch?