FX and Ryan Murphy had a huge hit last year with the first run of the American Crime Story anthology series, which covered the 1994-’95 saga of the arrest and trial of O.J. Simpson. The series was a huge ratings hit, showing that even a high-profile case that everyone in America was presumably sick of could be a translate to TV gold, if done right.
The O.J. series led to the greenlighting of a whole new slate of true-crime series, many of them based on famous 1990s cases, as well as multiple new seasons of American Crime Story. While plans were announced for seasons based on the Bill Clinton/Monica Lewinsky drama and the rampage of serial killer Andrew Cunanan, the next American Crime Story installment was long supposed to cover 2005’s Hurricane Katrina and the government’s botched response to it. The series looked to be in trouble recently, when the Cunanan series jumped it in line and the series was said to be on hold, but now there’s news of new casting and focus for the season, featuring a Ryan Murphy favorite.
Sarah Paulson will star in a “revamped” version of the Katrina series, EW reported Thursday. According to the report, the series has been revamped so that it will now be based on a book called Five Days at Memorial by Sheri Fink, which focused on tragic events at a hospital in New Orleans during and after the August 2005 storm. Paulson, who played Marcia Clark in the O.J. season of American Crime Story and has played various parts in the different seasons of American Horror Story and other Murphy-led shows, will portray Dr. Anna Pou. In another change, megaprodcer Scott Rudin, who owns the rights to the book, is joining the series as a producer.
Previously, American Crime Story was to focus on the political side of the Katrina disaster, with Dennis Quaid cast as former President George W. Bush, Matthew Broderick as infamous FEMA director Michael Brown and Annette Bening as then-Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco. According to Deadline, that casting is off but the producers will attempt to find other roles for at least some of the actors to play.
Clearly, something wasn’t working with the previous version of the Katrina project, so it’s good that the rights to an acclaimed book will be folded into the project. Also, it’s unclear how the bumbling political machinations could have filled 10 episodes in a compelling way.
The Memorial Hospital story is a very tragic one, and is unlikely to have many of the lighter notes of the O.J. Simpson version. It will be up to Ryan Murphy and the rest of the team to find the right tone.
The Katrina season of American Crime Story will film next spring and air in 2019.