Four years ago, Octavia Spencer (along with Reilly Smith, who is on board as a co-producer of the project) announced that she had optioned “Raven: The Untold Story of the Rev. Jim Jones and His People,” an award-winning 700-page tome, penned by Tim Reiterman, published in 2008, said to be the definitive history of Rev. Jim Jones, the Peoples Temple, and the murderous ordeal at Jonestown 4 decades ago.

“I thought it was time for people to understand where that phrase, ‘don’t drink the Kool-aid’ actually came from. There are so many parts in it. I don’t want to have to carry the weight of anything. I want to share the load. I want to be always part of an ensemble,” Spencer said in an interview published in the November issue of Elle magazine that year. Speaking on her desire to also produce, she added: “George Clooney… told me to find projects, work with the best.”

Per the book’s Amazon description: The book explores the ideals-gone-wrong, the intrigue, and the grim realities behind the Peoples Temple and its implosion in the jungle of South America. Reiterman’s reportage clarifies enduring misperceptions of the character and motives of Jim Jones, the reasons why people followed him, and the important truth that many of those who perished at Jonestown were victims of mass murder rather than suicide.

Over 900 people died on that tragic day in November 1978.

Octavia Spencer
Octavia Spencer

Skip ahead 4 years to an announcement today that HBO has picked up the project, and the “Breaking Bad” creative team – Vince Gilligan and Michelle MacLaren – have joined Octavia Spencer (who will executive produce) to adapt the book. Gilligan will pen the script and executive produce; while MacLaren, whose other credits include “Game of Thrones” and “The Walking Dead,” will direct and also executive produce.

Plans are to develop the project as a limited series, with the title “Raven.” At this time, it appears Spencer, who will next be seen in “Hidden Figures,” will only produce.

With a strong creative team behind the camera, and a tragic real-life story to work from, this should be a series to watch.

By the way, indie filmmaker Sikivu Hutchinson is developing an adaptation of her 2015 novel “White Nights, Black Paradise,” which takes a look at the People’s Temple through the eyes of Black women. She wrote about the project on this blog in July. Read her piece here.

Pick up a copy of Raven: The Untold Story of the Rev. Jim Jones and His People on Amazon’s website here.