Let no one accuse Oprah Winfrey of letting her OWN channel become the unofficial Tyler Perry network. Now comes word that OWN is developing “Tulsa” (working title), a two-night miniseries set to star Oscar winner Octavia Spencer (“The Help”). The miniseries will tell the story of the largest race riot in U.S. history, during which 300 people are believed to have been murdered. With Spencer's name above the title, we can't help but think this is sure to be Emmy Awards bait.
Describing this as “a story that was largely covered up for decades,” OWN says that Spencer will be playing the role of Mattie Clay, a journalist who moves back to Tulsa after a stint in Chicago where she must “face the demons of her past and decide where her future lies.” The miniseries will be executive produced by Nancy Miller (“Saving Grace”), and co-executive producers are Valerie Woods (“Soul Food”) and Dayna North (“Single Ladies”).
This miniseries is a savvy next move for OWN to class up the joint, though it doesn't represent a move away from either Perry or reality TV programming. While there are plans to have six-time Grammy-winning artist and actress Toni Braxton star as Darlene Love in the network's first scripted TV film, “My Name is Love: The Darlene Love Story,” and Justin Timberlake will kick off new season of “Oprah's Master Class” on May 11, Perry's “The Haves and the Have Nots” and “Single Moms Club” (working title) each received 20-episode orders.
The network also announced it will be presenting “Belief,” a television event exploring humankind's ongoing search to connect with something greater than ourselves.
“Coming off our most watched quarter in network history, we are excited to get to work on these new scripted projects with Octavia [Spencer] and Toni [Braxton],” said Erik Logan, president OWN. “By diversifying our programming, we are also growing our audience, and these new projects put us in a great position to take the network to the next level.”
“Oprah, Erik, and I have big dreams for OWN and you are seeing them come true,” added Sheri Salata, president OWN. “With multiple scripted films and series in active development, Justin Timberlake headlining our brand new season of 'Oprah's Master Class' and the addition of an epic worldwide event like 'Belief,' we are thrilled about what the future holds.”