Former Sopranos star James Gandolfini is looking to stay at his comfortable HBO home by starring in an American adaptation of British crime drama Criminal Justice. HBO has given the pilot the greenlight; it was co-written by Richard Price (The Wire, The Color Of Money) and Oscar-winning writer Steven Zaillian (Schindler’s List), who will also direct and executive-produce with Gandolfini and Price.
Gandolfini will play Jack Stone, a less than scrupulous attorney dressed in cheap suits and sandals, who trolls New York City police precincts for desperate clients. Stone stumbles upon an American-born Pakistani man named Naz (Rizwan Ahmed) in a holding cell and appoints himself Naz’s attorney. Actor/writer Peyman Moadi (A Separation) and Bollywood actress Poorna Jagannathan will star as Naz’s parents, Salim and Safar Kahn – with Bill Camp playing Detective Box, the lead detective on the case.
The original BAFTA Award-winning UK series (created by writer Peter Moffat) ran for two, five-episode seasons in 2008. Each episode chronicled the peculiar journey of a person charged with murder through the English justice system, and featured a new set of characters and cast. HBO’s version will follow the plot of the first season of the British Criminal Justice – which centered on a young man named Ben Coulter (Ben Whishaw) who picks up a wild party girl after stealing his father’s cab. Following a drug and alcohol-fuelled night, Ben wakes up with the girl violently stabbed to death in his bed – despite not remembering a thing, he is soon charged with her murder.
Ben Whishaw with Pete Postlethwaite in the BBC version of ‘Criminal Justice’
Although the British series frequently changed up the cast and characters for different episodes, should the U.S. Criminal Justice pilot receive a full series order, Gandolfini and the other cast members will stay on throughout the season. Criminal Justice is set to begin shooting this fall in New York and will be produced by HBO in association with BBC Worldwide Prods.
Gandolfini has stuck close to HBO since the conclusion of his hit mob-drama The Sopranos ended in 2007. Last year the actor starred in HBO’s Emmy-nominated movie Cinema Verite and has worked closely with the network to develop a couple other projects, which ultimately failed to launch. Should Criminal Justice get picked up, it will mark Gandolfini’s first series role since The Sopranos.
Check back with us for more on Criminal Justice as the info rolls in.