Two out black men will be developing a Fox drama about race and class in America.
Julian Breece and Lee Daniels (Empire, Star) will serve as executive producers of Mason Dixon. According to Deadline, the hourlong drama, written by Breece, "revolves around a black politician’s wife and a blunt-talking good-ol’ boy who, in the wake of their spouses’ cheating scandal, form an unlikely alliance that blends their families and shakes up a community divided by race and class."
In a statement to The Advocate, Breece noted that pairing two out black men to tell this story — one that "satirizes the myth of two Americas" — was "powerful" and would bring a unique perspective on this subject matter to network television.
"Being a black queer artist gives you a keen triple consciousness — the ability to see past societally imposed [constructs] like masculinity and femininity, racial essentialism, gender binaries," Breece said. "It's why James Baldwin and Audre Lorde are the closest thing to prophets we've had in America. It's why I've always admired Lee as an artist. He's been championing stories about 'invisible Americans' since Monster's Ball."
"A lot of people read Mason Dixon and wanted to change things — to dumb it down, but Lee got it immediately," Breece added. "So I got lucky. Because there's only one Lee Daniels in Hollywood."
Breece is an alumnus of Harvard University and holds an MFA from University of Southern California's Graduate School of Cinematic Arts. He is also a scholar from the Point Foundation, an organization that provides resources and mentorship to LGBT students.
Breece is known as the creator of Buppies, a 2009 web series that sold to BET. His short The Young and the Evil was a selection of the 2009 Sundance Film Festival. His screenplay Ball was a 2007 finalist for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Nicholl Fellowship in Screenwriting. Currently, he is a writer and coproducer on The First, a Hulu drama created by Beau Willimon (House of Cards).
Daniels, after directing acclaimed films like Precious and The Butler, has become a pioneer in breakthrough LGBT storylines on network television. Empire's first season was groundbreaking for its portrayal of a black gay man, Jamal Lyon (Jussie Smollett), and his coming-out to his father, the hip-hop mogul Lucious (Terrence Howard). Daniels's musical drama Star, which followed the formation of an interracial girl group in Atlanta, also featured the journey of a transgender character, Cotton (Amiyah Scott), toward acceptance.
“I was a step ahead of the game with this,” Daniels said of Star shortly after the U.S. presidential election. “I saw … the beginnings of the civil war prior to Trump in office. And so for me, this is about race and race relations and healing the American people."
Breece confirmed that Mason Dixon will also feature a broad diversity of characters, whose identities are "black, white, Muslim, Christian, queer, straight, but that's not what drives them."
"If the 2016 election taught us anything it's people aren't moved by slogans, statistics, or even reason for that matter. They're moved by human need. The universal need for dignity, respect — the desire to be seen, and heard," Breece said.
"Right now, American politics is fueled by division, drawing lines and reducing people to pawns in a war. Our series is about ordinary people daring to cross life's invisible lines to experience true human connection."