Writer and director Lee Daniels is set to make a television adaptation of the popular 1969 novel “The Spook Who Sat By The Door.” Ordered by Disney’s FX network, the pilot will bring author Sam Greenlee’s fictional account of the first Black CIA agent to life.
Highlighting protagonist Dan Freeman, the novel’s premise is the CIA recruits Freeman as a token hire without giving him any real work after training. Therefore, Freeman takes his intelligence training back to his Chicago hometown and uses it to start a revolution. The book has remained very popular among Black activists.
“The story chronicles the quest of Freeman, who was recruited as part of an affirmative-action program. After a very competitive selection process he trains in high-level combat and espionage. However, following this arduous training, this model recruit is rewarded with a post in the reprographics (aka photocopying) department, ‘left by the door’ as a token of the CIA’s ‘racial equality,’” the FX synopsis says of the show.
In addition to Daniel, “Raising Dion” producer Leigh Dana Jackson will write the pilot and serve as showrunner; and Gerard McMurray will serve as an executive producer and director.
“Spook” has been a longtime passion project for Daniels, with news that he’d optioned the novel breaking in 2018. In a press release announcing the pilot, Daniels revealed “Spook” was his father’s favorite book and expressed his honor at being able to work on the project.
“‘The Spook Who Sat By the Door’ was my dad’s favorite book,” Daniels said. “He’d be so proud that I’m doing this and even prouder that I’m doing this with Gerard and Dana — two bold and brilliant Black storytellers.”
This won’t be the first time Greenlee’s work has been adapted for the screen. It also premiered as a feature film in 1973 starring Lawrence Cook as Freeman. Not everyone is excited about the news, however.
Some social media users have already expressed their apprehension over the Spook pilot.
“This about to be some bull—t,” tweeted user @cooly_bobby. “Oh God no,” another user, @factualopinion0, wrote. “I’m rooting for black folk always..but they gon ruin this,” added user @HughE_P.
Jackson expressed what FX’s order of a pilot meant to him on Twitter. “Just realized my very Black show with all Black auspices got picked up during Black History Month and I’m a little bit shook,” Jackson tweeted.
Daniels is very busy these days. He’s also working on a “Wonder Years” reboot that will feature a Black family for ABC; his movie “The United States vs. Billie Holiday” premieres Feb. 26 on Hulu; and he has “Ms. Pat’ and “Our Kind of People” in the works for Hulu and Fox, respectively.