morgan freeman and bass reeves*After more than two decades, the ball is now rolling for a film on Deputy Marshal Bass Reeves.

Deadline reports that HBO put an untitled event miniseries project in development that will come from Morgan Freeman and Lori McCreary’s Revelations Entertainment and Grey’s Anatomy co-star James Pickens, Jr.

Freeman and McCreary will serve as executive producers on the miniseries through Revelations Entertainment, while Pickens, Jr. will executive produce though Bay Spring Productions.

Based on Art T. Burton’s biography “Black Gun, Silver Star: The Life and Legend of Frontier Marshal Bass Reeves,” the untitled event miniseries will chronicle the life of Reeves, one of the least known heroes of the Old West who became one of the first black US Deputy Marshals in the Oklahoma territory deputized by the legendary “hanging judge” Isaac C. Parker.

Noted for being a master of disguise, a great shot and one of the most effective lawmen in Indian territory, Reeves brought in more than 3,000 outlaws, in addition to killing some 14 outlaws. According to Deadline, although Reeves was rumored to be the inspiration for the lead character in the ”The Lone Ranger” TV series, a black man couldn’t be cast in that role from that time period. As a result, the character was made into a white man with a black mask.

News of Reeve’s life being made into an event miniseries caps off more than two decades of Freeman and McCreary trying to get the lawman’s story to the screen. The editor of Freeman’s directorial debut “Bopha!,” Neil Travis, introduced the duo to Reeves in 1993. For Freeman, a self-described “Western fanatic,” the project is a dream come true, considering he grew up watching Westerns and noticed the lack of anyone from that time period that looked like him.

“Wait a minute, who was there — there were bunch of white people and a few Mexicans,” Freeman told Deadline regarding his impressions of Westerns during his childhood as he touched on the Bass Reeves project. “I always wanted to do my own Western that was going to be it,” he said of the Bass Reeves project. “This is a black man in America’s legendary Western history who has been totally overlooked. Any chance I get to revisit historical moments of our country is important to me.”

Upon reading Burton’s book, “Bass Reeves, Black, Red and Deadly: Black and Indian Gunfighters of the Indian Territory,” Morgan and Travis found themselves doing research at Forth Smith, AZ, where a statue of Reeves, the first black U.S. Deputy Marshal west of the Mississippi River, is located.

Despite it going through various incarnations a script never pleasing the producers, Revelations continued to keep the Bass Reeves film project active with Freeman and McCreary revisiting the idea occasionally.

The idea to turn the project into a miniseries came as the pair were caught up with what was going on in television and the “the extraordinary characters it was introducing,” McCreary admitted to Deadline.

Pickens came aboard the project as McCreary and Freeman got word of Pickens’ efforts to tell Reeves’ story. Oscar-nominated writer John Sayles later joined the trio to write the project, which was ultimately pitched to HBO.

In addition to Reeves’ time as a hero frontier Marshall, the project will also highlight Reeves’ toughest capture, that of his own son, who had been charged with the murder of his wife in a crime of passion. Despite being shaken, Reeves insisted on being the one to bring his son in, which came about two weeks later. Reeves’ son was tried and later sent to prison, Deadline reports, adding that he was later
pardoned for good behavior and lived the rest of his life as a model citizen.

Although there aren’t any plans for Freeman to play Reeves, the site mentions that he may play another role in the miniseries.