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2024
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New Chicago TV Series ‘Emperor of Ocean Park’ Wraps Filming April 30th

Chicago’s new television series Emperor of Ocean Park is ready to wrap filming on its inaugural season. And the show has added its share of heavyweights along the way. Academy Award winning actor Forest Whitaker joined Emperor earlier this year as did Emmy-winning producer of The West Wing, Llewellyn Wells, as Executive Producer.

Emperor will wrap filming on or near Tuesday, April 30th, sources tell SCREEN. The series began filming on January 10th and has been filmed entirely in the Chicagoland area. Click here for all of SCREEN’s coverage of the show to date.

The Emperor of Ocean Park centers on Talcott Garland, an Ivy League law professor whose quiet life is shattered when his father, Judge Oliver Garland, dies of an apparent heart attack. Whitaker is expected to play the role of Judge Garland.

The nature of the judge’s death is questioned by Tal’s sister, Mariah, a former journalist and inveterate conspiracy theorist, who believes that the judge, a failed Black nominee to the Supreme Court, met with foul play.

Oscar Winner Joins Emperor

Forest Whitaker won the Academy Award for Best Actor for his portrayal of Ugandan dictator Idi Amin in the 2006 historical drama The Last King of Scotland. Since 2019, he has starred as “Bumpy Johnson” in the Epix crime drama series Godfather of Harlem.

Whitaker breaks down his most iconic roles, including the aforementioned Oscar winner, in this quick interview with GQ

Emmy Winner Davis Has a Unique Connection to Emperor

It should come as no surprise that Llewellyn Davis is boarding The Emperor of Ocean Park. His brother, John Wells, has been integral in bringing this project to fruition, and is an Executive Producer on the series.

Llewellyn is an Emmy award-winning producer of such shows as The West Wing, Animal Kingdom and Designated Survivor.

Llewellyn is an Emmy award-winning producer of such shows as The West Wing

Llewellyn has spent 28 years working in the entertainment industry. Early in his career he worked on such highly acclaimed independent films as Bagdad Café, The Grifters, Dogfight and Under Suspicion. Llewellyn won five Emmy awards, a Golden Globe and two Producers Guild awards as one of the original producers of The West Wing. He produced the first two seasons of the new hit series Animal Kingdom for WBTV/TNT and the second season of the ABC Series Designated Survivor starring Kiefer Sutherland.

Who’s Leading the Cast and Crew for Emperor?

The lead for The Emperor of Ocean Park is Grantham Coleman.

Coleman can currently be seen in Paramount+’s Taylor Sheridan series Bass Reeves, where he plays Edwin Jones. His recent resume also includes Netflix’s George C. Wolfe drama Rustin, starring alongside Colman Domingo, who plays gay civil rights activist Bayard Rustin. Coleman played the character of “Ronnie Mathis” in the third season of Starz’s crime drama Power Book III: Raising Kanan.

In this quick clip, Grantham chats with BlackFilmAndTV about his roles in Power and Lawman: Bass Reeves

Alongside Grantham Coleman is former Jessica Jones series regular Tiffany Mack, who plays Mariah Denton, and Milwaukee native Paulina Lule, playing Kimmer Madison Garland, Tal’s wife, a high-powered lawyer on the verge of being appointed a federal judgeship who sometimes neglects the feelings of those around her, including her husband.

Tiffany Mack & Paulina Lule (Courtesy of Di Harvell / Molly Pan)

It’s been a long road to bring this tale to the screen. The book was published in 2002 and was optioned by Warner Bros., John Wells Productions (JWP) and Gaylord Films in 2001. A film adaptation was previously in the works from Stephen Schiff and Carl Franklin, while Katori Hall developed the project as a pilot for Fox in 2015.

JWP is producing the MGM+ series in association with Warner Bros. Television, where JWP is under an overall deal. John Wells, Sherman Payne, Damian Marcano, Shukree Tilghman, and JWP’s Erin Jontow are serving as executive producers.

Chicago’s Kevin McGrail is leading the production team as Unit Production Manager.

Shameless Writer Returns to Chicago

The popular and critically acclaimed Showtime series Shameless was set in Chicago and filmed a portion of its series in The Windy City over its lengthy run. One of the cornerstones of that series returns to Chicago with Emperor of Ocean Park, as Shameless writer Sherman Payne is serving as showrunner.

Payne also wrote the first episode of Emperor, which is being directed by the aforementioned Damian Marcano (Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty).

Many more updates ahead for The Emperor of Ocean Park as the series forges ahead. Be sure to check back here at SCREEN Magazine for the latest in Chicago and Illinois television production. You can also click right here to subscribe to our weekly email newsletter.

Photo Credits: Forest Whitaker Photo by Gage Skidmore via Creative Commons CC BY-SA 3.0

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