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Thursday, May 23, 2024

Locally filmed and shuttered Joshua Jackson series dropped by cable network

“The Untitled J+L Project” — starring “Dawson’s Creek” darling Joshua Jackson and “Walking Dead” star Lauren Ridloff and produced by Oscar-nominated director Ava DuVernay — will not roll cameras again. (Courtesy photo)

WILMINGTON — When the writer’s strike took effect in the spring, it also shut down the only production rolling cameras in town at the time.

“The Untitled J+L Project” — starring “Dawson’s Creek” darling Joshua Jackson and “Walking Dead” star Lauren Ridloff — was in production for just more than a month before closing up shop. As of now, it will not be returning to Wilmington.

Ridloff and Jackson — who worked together on Broadway in “Children of a Lesser God” — were tapped by Oscar-nominated and award-winning producer and director Ava DuVernay (“Selma,” “Queen Sugar”) to star in the show. It was to follow the rebellious love affair of Jack and Lily — one who is deaf, the other isn’t — from disparate spheres and through their rise to resilience.

“J+L” was produced in collaboration with Warner Bros. and Starz, announced during its inaugural #TakeTheLead summit in May 2022. The summit included Starz committing to “amplifying narratives for, by and about women and underrepresented audiences,” according to a release at the time. The cable network revealed it was backing three seasons of the 18-episode series.

Port City Daily first reported “J+L” was going to begin production locally the last week in March. It shut down by May 23, two weeks after the writer’s strike began. DuVernay was seen picketing on the frontlines during that time; however, a 2018 contract she had signed with Warner Bros. was also coming to a close. DuVernay had a $100 million deal that sunset May 31. According to Variety, the two parties made a mutual decision not to move forward.

Though rumors have been swirling among local film industry insiders that the show wouldn’t return, Variety confirmed Thursday Starz dropped “J+L.” Whether it will be picked up elsewhere remains to be seen.

According to Variety, Starz made changes across the board, cutting series like “Heels” and “Blindspotting.” It also announced another series, “The Venery of Samantha Bird,” that had paused due to the strike would not continue.

This is the second production recently announced to cease operations in Wilmington; Fox announced at the beginning of October “Welcome to Flatch” was canceled. The comedic mockumentary filmed two seasons in the greater Wilmington area, including in Burgaw and Wilmington.

One reality show is rolling currently in town, a spinoff on HGTV’s “Good Bones.”

Johnny Griffin, the Wilmington Film Commission director, said at the groundbreaking of Dark Horse Studios’ two new film stages on Aug. 4 that the area was poised to have another stellar year before the strikes; the Screen Actors Guild joined the Writers Guild of America in the summer. It was expected that the third season for Amazon’s hit “The Summer I Turned Pretty” would return to the area.

The show filmed its first two seasons in Wrightsville and Carolina beaches. It was set up at EUE/Screen Gems, which sold to Cinespace — a global studio platform with 86 active stages worldwide — in September.

There is hope Amazon’s popular show could still come back next year, presuming a deal is reached between the actors and producers. Though the writer’s strike has ended, the SAG-AFTRA strike is still ongoing, with negotiations continuing as of Thursday among union reps and Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP).

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Shea Carver
Shea Carver
Shea Carver is the editor in chief at Port City Daily. A UNCW alumna, Shea worked in the print media business in Wilmington for 22 years before joining the PCD team in October 2020. She specializes in arts coverage — music, film, literature, theatre — the dining scene, and can often be tapped on where to go, what to do and who to see in Wilmington. When she isn’t hanging with her pup, Shadow Wolf, tending the garden or spinning vinyl, she’s attending concerts and live theater.

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