Claire Danes Leads ‘The Beast In Me’ Netflix Series From Gabe Rotter; Sets ‘Homeland’ Reunion With Howard Gordon; Jodie Foster & Conan O’Brien EP

Netflix has given the green light to The Beast In Me, a limited series headlined and executive produced by Claire Danes. In addition to Danes, the mystery thriller project, created, written and executive produced by Gabe Rotter, is executive produced by Jodie Foster, Conan O’Brien via Conaco and Homeland co-creator/executive producer Howard Gordon who will serve as showrunner, reuniting with the acclaimed series’ star/executive producer Danes. 20th Television is the studio; Gordon is no longer under a deal at Sony Pictures TV, which explains his involvement.

The surprising mix of big names attached to the series reflects its long, twisty path to the screen — indicative of how hard it often is to get a show made — which we will get into in a bit. The story may also inspire aspiring writers not to give up.

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Gabe Rotter, photo by Lewis Abel
Gabe Rotter, photo by Lewis Abel

In The Beast In Me, since the tragic death of her young son, acclaimed author Aggie Wiggs (Danes) has receded from public life, unable to write, a ghost of her former self. But she finds an unlikely subject for a new book when the house next door is bought by Nile Sheldon, a famed and formidable real estate mogul who was once the prime suspect in his wife’s disappearance. At once horrified and fascinated by this man, Aggie finds herself compulsively hunting for the truth – chasing his demons while fleeing her own – in a game of cat and mouse that might turn deadly.

Executive producing the series are creator Rotter, showrunner Gordon, O’Brien, Jeff Ross and David Kissinger for Conaco; Foster and Daniel Pearle (American Crime Story).

The origin of The Beast In Me can be traced back 6-7 years ago when Rotter, who worked on both the original X-Files and its revival, wrote his initial script on spec, featuring a male protagonist. After the script failed to generate any interest, Rotter’s team suggested a gender swap of the main character and he rewrote the project with Aggie as the new lead.

The marketplace was still lukewarm, so Rotter’s manager, Larry Shuman, called Conaco President Kissinger whom he had known since the days Kissinger was an executive on House, created by Shuman’s longtime client David Shore.

Built around O’Brien’s brand, Conaco had been firmly in the comedy business but the company had been looking to expand into drama, and Kissinger agreed to read the script. He loved it, shared it with the rest of the Conaco partners, O’Brien and Ross, and the company, which had just came off multiple deals at Warner Bros. TV and didn’t have a studio affiliation, came on board.

Kissinger, in turn, passed the script on to his college friend Foster, whom he envisioned as potentially starring as Aggie, directing and executive producing. Foster engaged and, following several meetings with Rotter and series of notes over an eight-month period, she came on board to direct and executive produce but not star.

For that, Foster suggested Danes and sent the script to her. The Emmy-winning Homeland star responded and signed on. Through her producing deal at Homeland studio Fox21, The Beast In Me landed there for development more than four years ago. It subsequently migrated to 20th Television following the two brands’ merger.

The project was set up at Netflix and went through writers rooms and multiple incarnations, with the antagonist changing identities. The streamer ultimately went back to a version of the original idea that got Foster and Danes involved, with head of drama Jimmy Howe championing the project throughout the lengthy process.

The Beast In Me got a blinking green light which became solid when Gordon came on as showrunner. (He, in turn, brought in with him Pearle, co-showrunner with Gordon on Season 2 of the Fox series Accused.)

Gordon and Alex Gansa’s overall deal at Sony Pictures TV had come to an end and was not renewed, so Gordon was a free agent. In his return to his longtime studio home, 20th Television, he is contracted for this series; there is no overall deal behind it. (Foster is no longer attached to direct due to her schedule but has remained an executive producer.)

This marks only the second 20th TV series for Netflix besides Steve Levitan’s Kristen Bell comedy and first drama since the studio was acquired by Disney five years ago.

Danes most recently starred in FX’s limited series, Fleishman Is In Trouble, for which she was nominated for an Emmy Award, Golden Globe and Critics’ Choice Award. Her other recent projects include starring in Steven Soderbergh’s Full Circle for Max and Apple TV+’s The Essex Serpent. She is repped by WME, Michael Aglion at Signpost Management and Ziffren Brittenham. Rotter is repped by CAA, The Shuman Co. and attorney Derek Kroeger. Gordon is repped by WME, 3 Arts and Gendler, Kelly & Cunningham.

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