In 1967, the philosopher, Roland Barthes, wrote an essay titled “The Death of the Author,” in which he explains how an artist is essentially nothing more than a medium, distilling history and pop culture through the lens of their mind. The idea is that, if Stephen King hadn’t written The Shining, someone would have written something similar around the same time because that idea was percolating in the air, waiting to transcribed. And the author, himself, may not even be aware of what their story is really about. For that reason, authors should be given as much reverence as cheese cloth.
I like coming up with ideas nobody else can think up but I’m simply a lens for the world, too, and so it was inevitable that one day, one of my ideas would get scooped.
Last winter, during COVID lockdown, an idea came into my mind, fully-formed, with wonderful characters and social relevance. It was the story of how our country was formed as a monarchy and the descendants of Thomas Jefferson still ruled as a family – until one of Sally Hemings’ illegitimate African American grandsons tried to claim the throne. It was set in 1970, and Nixon was the Prime Minister who planned to bring down the monarchy.
In February, I sent it to a small list of production companies who had read my stuff before. It slowly made its way around some offices.
Alas, The Last King of America is now as dead as Nixon, with the announcement of Sam Esmail’s “The American Throne” being picked up. Deadline summarizes the plot:
Set in a reimagined, contemporary America where the nation was founded as a monarchy. This entirely white Royal Family is plunged into a scorched earth succession battle when it’s revealed the late King has hidden a mind-blowing secret: A Black son who is the true heir to the throne.
I’m a huge fan of Esmail, who is one of the most original voices in TV these days. I had the pleasure of meeting with his team a few years ago, when they were interested in a different project of mine. Seems like Esmail and I were separate cheese clothes straining the same creative juice for this one and he beat me to it. C’est la vie.
Personally, I fell in love with the Crown over lockdown and I think The Last King of America came from wanting to play in that sandbox over here.
Anyway, I wish Esmail and his team the best. Can’t wait to watch this.
For those who want to take a peek at my story and meet the characters I came to know well, follow this link for the full script.