Oscar Winner Forest Whitaker, ‘West Wing’ Producer Llewellyn Wells to Join ‘Emperor of Ocean Park’

Chicago’s new television series is adding some heavyweights to the roster, as it begins filming this week. Sources tell SCREEN Academy Award winning actor Forest Whitaker will be joining The Emperor of Ocean Park. Meanwhile, Emmy-winning producer of The West Wing, Llewellyn Wells, is boarding the series as Executive Producer.

Emperor began filming in Chicago this week, on January 10th, and will wrap on or near April 25th.

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.

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.

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

Emmy Winner Joins 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 will be 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 will be 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 will produce 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 will serve as executive producers.

Chicago’s Kevin McGrail will be 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 will be serving as showrunner.

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

Ready to Roll in 2024

The Emperor of Ocean Park is not the only brand new series landing in Chicago to begin the new year. Hulu’s show Deli Boys will also be filming its inaugural season in town later this month. Click here for more of SCREEN’s coverage of Deli Boys, including a look at the show’s cast and crew.

Many more updates ahead for The Emperor of Ocean Park as the series forges ahead into production this month.

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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