Will Smith to Star in Netflix Crime Drama ‘The Council’

Dave McNary

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Will Smith will star as crime boss Nicky Barnes in the Netflix drama “The Council.”

The thriller centers on a crime syndicate consisting of seven African-American men who ruled Harlem in the 1970s and early 80s with the goal of establishing a self-sufficient and self-policing African American city-state, funded by revolutionizing the drug game. It explores the Shakespearean court intrigue in the council between Barnes and a rising protege.

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The real-life Barnes partnered with the Italian-American Mafia on international drug distribution until his arrest in 1978. He was sentenced to life imprisonment and became a federal informant under the witness protection program. Barnes died in 2012 but his death did not become known until this year. He was portrayed by Cuba Gooding, Jr., in Ridley Scott’s 2007 film “American Gangster,” which starred Denzel Washington.

Peter Landesman, who wrote and directed Smith’s 2015 sports drama “Concussion,” is penning the script for “The Council.” Smith is producing with James Lassiter for Westbrook Inc.’s Overbrook Entertainment along with Jackson Pictures’ Matt Jackson and Jason Essex for Anonymous Nobodies. Landesman is executive producing with Jackson Pictures’ Joanne Lee and David Lee for Anonymous Nobodies.

Smith most recently starred as the Genie in Disney’s “Aladdin” and will next be seen in Ang Lee’s sci-fi thriller “Gemini Man,” which Paramount opens on Oct. 11.

Overbrook is represented by CAA and Mark Wetzstein of Sloan, Offer, Weber and Dern. Jackson Pictures is represented by CAA and Neil Sacker of Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, LLP. Ryan Goodell of Morris Yorn Barnes Levine Krintzman Rubenstein Kohner & Gellman negotiated on behalf of Jason Essex. CAA and Andrew Galker from Jackoway Austen Tyerman Wertheimer Mandelbaum Morris Bernstein Trattner & Klein negotiated on behalf of Peter Landesman.

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