The six-part series is titled Unruly and will be a "no-holds-barred telling of Johnson’s life." It's based on the 2004 PBS documentary Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson and the book of the same name. The series was first put into development at HBO in 2013.
This isn't the first time Ali has embodied Johnson. In 2000, he played the role of the first Black heavyweight champion in the stage play The Great White Hope. He will also executive produce the series which will follow "Johnson’s rise to greatness and the costs he paid for his skin color and defiance" while Dominique Morisseau handles the writing. Tom Hanks will also executive produce the project with Gary Goetzman and Ken Burns—who directed the original PBS documentary.
In addition to playing Johnson, Ali is gearing up for his role as Blade in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. He has a first-look deal with HBO through his Known production company. Together, HBO and Known are creating a docu-series called We Have a Dream: The Kids of the Oakland MLK Oratorical Fest which will be directed by Amy Schwartz.
Morisseau is a Tony-nominated writer whose television credits include Shameless. She's currently developing a new musical based on Soul Train and has a pilot in production at FX.