Misty Copeland, who broke barriers and defied convention to emerge as a ballet superstar, has teamed with rising writer Tracy Oliver for a drama set in the world of dance. The untitled project, which has been set up at Foxthrough 20th Century Fox TV, is partially based on Copeland’s life story. It follows a young, hip, diverse group of aspiring dancers as they fiercely compete for places in the American Ballet Theatre company.
Copeland’s improbable rise has captivated media attention. She went from living in a motel room with her mother and siblings and only starting ballet classes at age 13 to this year becoming the first African-American principal dancer at the prestigious American Ballet Theater, despite not having what is considered a standard ballerina body. Copeland addressed her struggles with adversity and rejection in her 2014 Under Armor commercial, which went viral and made her a pop culture icon, and in her autobiography Life In Motion, which was optioned by New Line.
Oliver became fascinated by Copeland and her story after reading an article about the dancer two years ago. Oliver has a performing arts background — she studied music, dance, and theatre from elementary school through college at Stanford — and already had been interested in developing something in the performing arts space. She immediately knew she wanted to collaborate with Copeland in some way and, thought it was clearly a long shot, she cold-called and pitched herself and the idea of doing a TV project together to Copeland and her manager Gilda Squire. Oliver was over the moon when Copeland agreed to develop a dance show with her right then on the phone.
Oliver and Copeland will executive produce the Fox drama with Principao Young’s Brian Dobbins, Peter Principato and Paul Young.
Oliver, who first got notice with The Misadventures Of Awkward Black Girl web series, which she co-wrote and executive produced, was a writer on ABC comedyNeighbors and recently staffed on Starz’s Survivor’s Remorse for the first two seasons. It’s been a big year for Oliver who landed two features — Barbershop 3 and an untitled Girls’ Trip movie at Universal, which she is co-writing with Kenya Barris — and has sold two TV projects, the Copeland drama and romantic comedy Ordinary People, which has a put pilot commitment at ABC. Loosely based on John Legend and Chrissy Teigen’s relationship, the music-flavored project is written/executive produced by Oliver and executive produced by Legend, Teigen and Barris. Oliver is repped by ICM Partners, PYE and Kim Stenton. Copeland is repped by Paradigm.
In addition to the slew of popular dancing reality shows, there have been a couple of ballet-themed scripted series over the past few years, most notably ABC Family dramedy Bunheads and Starz’s upcoming dark limited drama series Flesh And Bone.