The two are teaming with noted TV producer Aaron Kaplan to develop an HBO miniseries about Emmett Till, a black teenager who was brutally murdered in 1955 after he allegedly flirted with a white woman. The project reunites Smith and Jay Z after their successful collaboration on 2014’s big screen remake of Annie.
Till was visiting relatives in Money, Miss. when he is said to have spoken with Carolyn Bryant, the 21-year-old proprietor of a local grocery story. Days later, Bryant’s husband Roy and his half-brother J.W. Milam took Till from his great-uncle’s home to a nearby barn, where they beat him and gouged out one of his eyes. They then shot the teen in the head and attempted to hide his body in the Tallahatchie River.
Till’s corpse was discovered three days later, after which his body was sent back to his mother, in Chicago. She insisted on a public funeral with an open casket service, intent on showing the world the the level of suffering her young son had been forced to endure.
The killers were eventually acquitted of the kidnapping and murder charges they faced, but — protected by “double jeopardy” — they later confessed their crimes in an interview with Look magazine. The case was reopened in 2004 with the intent of discovering whether or not Bryant and Milam had had assistance on the night of the murder.
The Variety report confirming the news doesn’t say how much of the story the miniseries will explore, though it’s expected to run for six hours. There’s no writer yet, but Smith and Jay Z reportedly “jumped” at Kaplan’s pitch.