The US cable channel has bought The Black 22s after poaching Endemol Shine Studios executive VP Carolyn G. Bernstein in December 2015.
The Black 22s follows the true story of one of the US’s first all-black police squads, centring on an African-American detective during the Prohibition era in St. Louis.
Oyelowo will executive-produce the show with The Librarians creator John Rogers and writer Paul Guyot, along with Kung Fu Monkey Productions’ Jennifer Court, and Bharat Nalluri, the latter of whom directs.
Guyot, who developed the scripts, will also be showrunner. “I could not be more excited to have Carolyn Bernstein and National Geographic Channel as a partner in developing such a provocative and important story that resonates so strongly with today’s society,” he said.
“The Black 22s is the black Untouchables,” said Oyelowo. “Our goal is to serve up a kinetic and vibrant show that displays the excitement and energy of America in the 1920s, with a cinematic punch.”
The moves marks a step-change in Nat Geo’s push in scripted programming. Deadline reports it beat off competition from two other channels to land The Black 22s.
The net has previously had success with miniseries such as Killing Jesus and ordered its first scripted series, Blood Ivory, in January after a significant management restructuring under Courteney Monroe.
“This pitch gave me goosebumps from beginning to end. It is a moving, muscular and resonant story that perfectly exemplifies the adage that truth is strange and more compelling than fiction,” said Bernstein, Nat Geo’s executive VP of global scripted programming and production.
“It also represents the kind of timely and provocative storytelling that I hope will become a hallmark of Nat Geo’s new scripted initiative.”