The agreement with Peele, who won the Oscar for best original screenplay in March, is sure to grab the attention of the industry and Amazon’s streaming rival, Netflix, which has been making its own deals with talent like Ryan Murphy, Shonda Rhimes and Barack and Michelle Obama.
Under the deal, Amazon will essentially have the right of first refusal for any of Peele’s TV series.
Amazon also announced that Barry Jenkins, the director of “Moonlight,” would direct all 11 episodes of its limited series, “The Underground Railroad,” adapted from Colson Whitehead’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel.
In a statement, Salke said the company “can’t wait to get started” on the project, and added, “Barry’s eye for character and sustained exhilarating, emotional storytelling style ensures that this project is in the right hands.”
Amazon has been courting Peele for months, including making commitments to a TV show and a documentary.
The company made a 10-episode, straight-to-series order for a show called “The Hunt,” for which Peele will serve as executive producer. According to Amazon, the series centers on a group of people living in New York in 1977 who vow to break up a band of Nazis trying to establish a Fourth Reich in the United States.
The company also gave the go-ahead to a true-crime documentary series from Peele about Lorena Bobbitt, who made headlines after she cut off the penis of her husband, John Wayne Bobbitt, in 1993.
The move to sign Peele is Amazon’s biggest talent-related deal since Jennifer Salke joined the company in February to run Amazon Studios. Salke, who was previously an entertainment executive at NBC, is responsible for bringing new life to the streaming service, which is widely seen as lagging far behind Netflix. Under the unit’s earlier management team, Amazon seemed to be focused on passion projects with limited commercial appeal. Roy Price, the company’s former entertainment leader, was forced out after a producer made an allegation of sexual harassment against him last year.
Amazon’s deal with Peele is limited to series projects. Peele, the co-creator of the Comedy Central series “Key & Peele,” already has a first-look deal for films with Universal.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.
JOHN KOBLIN © 2018 The New York Times