ABC options 'How To Survive A Plague' for a scripted miniseries

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Image Credit: Donna Binder

How To Survive A Plague may not have walked away with an Academy Award on Sunday, but the story could have a longer life yet. Thursday, ABC Studios announced that they had optioned the rights to the David France documentary about a group of HIV-positive activists fighting for their lives and the lives of their friends, who managed to get the pharmaceutical industry to focus on testing and identifying new treatments for AIDS. While the film was a documentary mainly drawing from interviews and news footage, the miniseries will be scripted. France confirmed the news to EW.

“It’s still very early. We don’t know how long it will be for example, so we’re still working those details out,” France told EW. “But I have been working on the story and on the script for some time, and I think it’s going to allow us the luxury of being able to tell the story around the kind of activity that brought us to the end of the plague, and to find out what is left for us.”

Stories about the AIDS epidemic are not lacking, but in the widely acclaimed documentary, France managed to craft a new narrative around a group of compelling characters — a testament to his storytelling skills. “1987 to 1996 will be our core. Those are the years of grassroots AIDS activism. The other year would be 1981, but the whole period will be referenced in the series,” said France. As to the question of whether the series will focus on characters inspired by those in the documentary, it’s still very early but France said, “let’s just say yes. It will be a tight ensemble. A handful of people with almost nothing in common but their shared battle against the epidemic.”

France, and his producing partner Howard Gertler will both serve as Executive Producers on the project, alongside former Focus Features president of production John Lyons (Boogie Nights, Pieces of April). “ABC is really the perfect match for this. ABC is the network that brought us Roots and so many other enormous and seminal miniseries. But Roots is such an important touchstone for me because it was really about the arrival of the African American people to full citizenship, and how that happened,” France said. “That’s the same kind of trajectory that we see with the arrival of the gay and lesbian community to full involvement in public life. That happened in a much quicker timeline, but in a way I think that How To Survive A Plague the miniseries will tell that parallel story. And ABC knows how to do that. I was thrilled that they wanted to do this, and that they saw that it was part of their cultural tradition to tell these enormous stories that really changed the way generations of people think about a certain part of our history.”

There’s no specific timeline yet, but France assures EW that “we’re in full swing now.” As to whether or not he has any dream cast assembled in his mind, France said “I don’t, but there have been a number of suggestions that have been flying in over the past couple of hours. They’re really fun.”

France wouldn’t say who exactly was being suggested, so, we’ll toss it to you. Who would you love to see cast in this miniseries?

Read More:
‘How To Survive A Plague’ aims for Oscar
Ed Koch endorsed ‘How To Survive A Plague’ despite being its villain
Spencer Cox, AIDs activist featured in ‘How To Survive A Plague’, dies

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