Colson Whitehead, the Pulitzer-prize-winning novelist known for “The Underground Railroad” and “The Nickel Boys,” among others, is having his 2009 book “Sag Harbor” turned into a television series for HBO Max. The news comes on the heels of Barry Jenkins’s lauded reimagining of Mr. Whitehead’s “The Underground Railroad” into a 10-part miniseries earlier this year.
Per Deadline, a Hollywood entertainment news website, the series is to be produced by Boat Rocker Studios, with Daniel “Koa” Beaty attached to write the pilot. Mr. Koa is known for his plays “Through the Night,” “Emergency,” “Mr. Joy” and “The Tallest Tree in the Forest – Paul Robeson” and will also be an executive producer on the project, as will Mr. Whitehead himself. Laurence Fishburne and Helen Sugland’s Cinema Gypsy Productions will executive produce as well.
Whitehead’s fourth novel, “Sag Harbor” tells the story of Benji Cooper, a Black teenager from New York City who spends his summers in Sag Harbor with his brother Reggie and the rest of his family. Benji and Reggie are some of the few Black students at their preppy private school in New York City. The novel is set in 1985 and explores the small community of well-off African-Americans who set up their own enclave on the East End. The novel was a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction as well as the Hurston-Wright Legacy Award, and is partially based on Mr. Whitehead’s own experience of spending summers in Sag Harbor. In the novel, Benji works at an ice cream store in town as Mr. Whitehead himself did.
“There is much more class anxiety in our generation,” Mr. Whitehead said of the book in a 2009 interview with the Sag Harbor Express. “The issue of authenticity and are you Black enough if you go to private school and spend summer in the Hamptons. Do you buy into it? My parents’ or grandparents’ generation were making businesses and carving out the black upper middle class community. A feature of growing up in the ’70s and ’80s was that we were in the aftermath.”
The planned release date of the series or specifics about casting have not yet been announced.