EXCLUSIVE: Universal Television, a division of Universal Studio Group, has landed rights to The Ascent, the debut novel of police officer and sergeant turned author Adam Plantinga, in a highly competitive situation.
Sources tell Deadline that a pair of prominent directors were taking meetings to set the book up at various studios before Universal stepped in with a preemptive bid and enlisted Davis Entertainment, its collaborator on shows like The Blacklist and The Equalizer, to executive produce the series adaptation. USG’s Creative Acquisitions and IP Management team, led by Jordan Moblo, was instrumental in securing rights to the novel.
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Garnering critical acclaim in its publication last month through Grand Central, The Ascent centers on Kurt Argento, an ex-Detroit street cop who can’t let injustice go — and has the fighting skills to back up his idealism. If he sees a young girl being dragged into an alley, he’s going to rescue her and cause some damage. When he does just that in a small, corrupt Missouri town, he’s brutally beaten and thrown into a maximum-security prison.
Julie Wakefield, a grad student who happens to be the governor’s daughter, is about to take a tour of the prison. But when a malfunction in the security system releases a horde of prisoners, a fierce struggle for survival ensues. Argento must help a small band of staff and civilians, including Julie and her two state trooper handlers, make their way from the bottom floor to the roof to safety. All that stands in their way are six floors of the most dangerous convicts in Missouri.
“With Adam’s experience as a police officer and sergeant, you feel the intensity, nuances and compassion of the characters with his debut novel,” said Vivian Cannon, EVP of Drama Development at UTV. “This story has all the elements of a thrilling series, including multi-faceted characters in heart-pounding situations. We can’t wait to work with Adam to bring this story to the screen.”
Plantinga called news of the acquisition “fantastic,” even if his daughters “won’t be impressed unless the book becomes a ride at Universal Studios and not just any ride, but the best ride.” For his part, he is “greatly looking forward to the prospect of Universal Television bringing the book to screen.”
Previously, Plantinga has published two acclaimed works of nonfiction, the first being 400 Things Cops Know, which was nominated for an Agatha Award and won the 2015 Silver Falchion award for best nonfiction crime reference. He followed up that work, hailed as “truly excellent” by author Lee Child, with 2018’s Police Craft. Plantinga began his career in law enforcement in 2001, serving as a police officer in Milwaukee before moving over to the San Francisco Police Department, where he currently serves as a sergeant assigned to street patrol.
One of the world’s leading television studios, Universal Television has been behind everything from Hacks and Girls5Eva to The Gilded Age and Schmigadoon!. Also home to Dick Wolf’s Law & Order, One Chicago and FBI-branded series, its other recent series include Bel-Air, Never Have I Ever, The Best Man: The Final Chapters, The Equalizer, Loot, Harlem and Bupkis, to name a few.
Plantinga is represented by Independent Artist Group and Caitlin Blasdell at Liza Dawson Associates.
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