ABC Orders Pilot for Matt Lopez’s Latinx Family Drama “Promised Land” 

Matt Lopez’s promise continues…

The Latino screenwriter’s hourlong Latinx family drama Promised Land has secured a pilot order at ABC.

Matt Lopez

Previously known as American Heritage, the project is an epic, generation-spanning drama about two Latinx families vying for wealth and power in California’s Sonoma Valley.

ABC bought the project pre-emptively with a put-pilot commitment last year.

Lopez, who has written feature films including Bedtime Stories, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice and Race to Witch Mountain, writes and executive produces.

ABC Signature is the studio.

Lopez created the NBCUniversal International drama series Gone, starring Chris Noth, which aired on WGN America in the U.S. He also is adapting Helen Cresswell’s young-adult novel Moondial into an ambitious time-travel drama for Fulwell 73. On the feature side, he’s writing a new Father of the Bride film for Warner Bros. revolving around a Latinx family, a first for the franchise.

Albert Ramon Named Chief Meteorologist at WGN America’s “News Nation”

Albert Ramon is movin’ on up…

News Nation, the three-hour prime-time block of live news debuting September 1 on WGN America, has set its on-air talent lineup, with the Latino meteorologist making the grade.

Albert Ramon

Anchoring weeknight broadcasts from 8:00 pm to 11:00 pm will be Joe Donlon and Marni Hughes, accompanied by breaking news anchor Rob Nelson and Ramon as the chief meteorologist. 

A Texas native, Ramon previously worked as part of the KVUE Storm Team since October 2009. He has earned the Seal of Approval from both the American Meteorological Society and the National Weather Association. He has also received the Texas Associated Press award for Best Weathercast.

Nexstar Media Group, which took control of WGN America after its $4.1 billion acquisition of Tribune Media in 2019, announced plans for the news overhaul several months ago. The company is aiming to leverage its leading station group portfolio as well as the carriage of WGN America in 75 million pay-TV homes to provide an alternative news outlet that it bills as being free of bias. 

News viewership has been surging in 2020 and the fall election is apt to continue the trend. In the years leading up to the Nexstar deal, WGN America’s programming lineup was defined by prestige dramas like Underground and Manhattan.

“Our on-air anchors and reporters, as well as those guiding the off-camera news-gathering process, are

award-winning journalists who understand the importance of being objective,” said Sean Compton,

EVP of WGN America. “They reflect the diversity of our country and will be the backbone of News Nation, as WGN America begins charting a new course in television news, designed for the millions of viewers across the U.S. who want their news to be accurate, fair and without opinion.”

Jennifer Lyons, a former WGN news director in Chicago, is overseeing News Nation as VP of News for WGN America.

Meraz to Star in WGN America’s Drama Pilot “Scalped”

Alex Meraz has some reservations about his new role…

The 32-year-old Mexican actor, dancer and martial artist has been cast as one of the leads in WGN America’s drama pilot Scalped.

Alex Meraz

The project, featuring a predominantly Native American cast, was written by Doug Jung based on the DC graphic novel series written by Jason Aaron and illustrated by R.M. Guéra.

A modern-day crime story set in the world of a Native American reservation, Scalped explores power, loyalty and spirituality in a community led by the ambitious Chief Lincoln Red Crow as he reckons with Dashiell Bad Horse (Meraz), who has returned home after years away from the reservation. The Native American casting will be a first for a television series in recent history.

Meraz’s Dashiell was exiled from the Rez by his mother at age 13 and returns home after 15 years as a criminal with a mysterious agenda. His return sets him on a violent path of self-discovery about his place on the Rez and on a collision course with both his estranged mother and Red Crow.

The former Twilight star, of the Purepecha (Tarasco) First Nation of Michoacan, Mexico, most recently was seen in Warner Bros.’ Suicide Squad for director David Ayer. He reunited with Ayer and Suicide Squad star Will Smith for the upcoming Netflix original film Bright and also has a heavily recurring role on TNT’s Animal Kingdom. Other upcoming projects include the feature films Last Man Stands and Tranzloco.

WGN America to Premiere Smollett-Bell’s “Underground” in March

Jurnee Smollett-Bell is heading Underground this coming March.

WGN America will premiere its Underground Railroad thriller Underground, starring the 29-year-old Brazilian American actress, on Wednesday, March 9.

Jurnee Smollett-Bell in Underground

The network has released the first two trailers (see below) for the 10-episode series starring Smollett-Bell as Rosalee.

From creators Misha Green and Joe Pokaski and executive producer John Legend, the series follows a courageous blacksmith who covertly organizes a small group of his fellow slaves and pieces together a daring plan of escape across hundreds of miles to freedom.

The cast also includes Christopher Meloni, Alano Miller, ‎Jessica de Gouw, Marc Blucas, ‎Adina Porter, Mykelti Williamson, ‎Amirah Vann, Johnny Ray Gill, Chris Chalk, Reed Diamond, Theodus Crane, Renwick Scott and Jussie Smollett.

Anthony Hemingway directs and serves as executive producer for the first four episodes.

Underground is produced by Sony Pictures Television and Tribune Studios.

Smollet to Guest Star on WGN America’s Pre-Civil War Series “Underground”

Jussie Smollett  is going Underground

The 32-year-old Brazilian actor/singer and breakout Empire star will guest-star on two episodes of Underground, WGN America’s pre-Civil War straight-to-series drama about the Underground Railroad.

Jussie Smollett

The series from Sony Pictures Television and Tribune Studios follows a group of slaves who plan a daring escape from a Georgia plantation to cross 600 miles to freedom. They are aided along the way by a secret abolitionist couple running a station on the Underground Railroad, as they evade those tasked with bringing them back — dead or alive.

Smollett is Josey, a wild-eyed runaway who doesn’t trust anyone, not even those stationed along the way who would try to help him.

Smollet will appear alongside his sister, Jurnee Smollett-Bell, in the series. She’ll portray Rosalee, a timid house slave who finds strength within herself.

Underground is expected to premiere in 2016.