There's nothing quite like a historical miniseries for us to feel like we're learning, and HBO has a doozy in the works. American Lion has been greenlighted as a six-hour event series about Andrew Jackson. The seventh president of the United States, Jackson is one of the more controversial figures of the nation's past, and luckily, HBO landed a great actor to tackle the part as Oscar winner Sean Penn has signed on to play Jackson.
American Lion will be Penn's first major TV part, although a six-hour HBO series is about as close to film as a television event can be. According to Deadline, he will have an executive producing credit as well as the starring role. The series is based on a Pulitzer Prize-winning biography by historian Jon Meacham, entitled American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House. Meacham will serve as consultant.
Andrew Jackson was orphaned by the British at a young age and went on the become a beloved general. He's since come to be known as the country's first “People's President.” He was the only U.S. president to pay off the national debt, earning his place on the $20 bill. He was also, however, the president responsible for the Indian Removal Act and the subsequent Trail of Tears. Suffice it to say, Sean Penn will have a meaty role.
The project hails from first-time producer Matt Jacobson, who had left a career in television to work in the digital sphere at Facebook. Upon reading the biography and deciding that there were many parallels between Jackson's political career and the current political climate - including the ugliness of campaigns once sides begin firing at one another - Jacobson did research to discover that there were no Jackson projects in the works on television. Thus, American Lion became a possibility as a miniseries. Despite Jackson's legacy as the man behind the Trail of Tears and the face of one of everybody's favorite bills of currency, he's not always one of the presidents many people learn about. A miniseries will allow Jacobson to bring multiple major chapters of Jackson's life to the small screen with Sean Penn.
As it turns out, Penn's involvement in American Lion is surprisingly serendipitous for Jacobson. Their acquaintance began way back in the 1980s after Jacobson and his father picked up a hitchhiking Penn. Two decades later saw Jacobson and Penn meet up again by chance, and the ensuing friendship that blossomed between them brought American Lion to Penn's attention.
Jacobson may be responsible for bringing Penn to American Lion, but Doug Miro and Carlo Bernard of Netflix's original Narcos will write the script and join Jacobson and Penn as executive producers.
There are no details just yet of who will sign on alongside Penn or when we can expect American Lion to hit the airwaves, but we can at least count on a solid team of historians and TV veterans to bring Andrew Jackson's story to life once more.