Don Cheadle, Steven Soderbergh to team up on HBO Max show about ‘Wall Street’s first Black millionaire’

Don Cheadle attends the 71st Emmy Awards at Microsoft Theater on Sept. 22, 2019, in Los Angeles. (Frazer Harrison/Getty Images/TNS)
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Ella Ceron Bloomberg News (TNS)

Hollywood heavyweights Don Cheadle and Steven Soderbergh will executive produce a drama series based on the life of Jeremiah Hamilton, a Wall Streeter who in the 1800s became one of the first Black millionaires in the U.S., per a Variety report. The series is set to air on HBO Max, the streaming wing of HBO which is owned by WarnerMedia.

The series comes from executive producers Keith Josef Adkins, Ashley Nicole Black and Carlos Foglia, all of whom shared the report on Twitter. “When someone says Don Cheadle and Steven Soderbergh wanna meet — cut them off there and get the zoom link asap,” Black, a writer on HBO Max’s “A Black Lady Sketch Show,” wrote.

HBO and HBO Max reported 73.8 million subscribers by the end of 2021, placing them behind Netflix and Disney+, which have over 200 million and 100 million subscribers respectively. The gain in speed by the streaming service, which launched in May 2020, came after the company cut prices for subscribers in Europe and Latin America and put all its 2021 film releases online at the same time they hit theaters. American customers can stream its offerings for $15 a month. A $10 option comes with ads.

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“The Other Hamilton,” is based on a book by Shane White, who is listed as a writer on the project. There is no current release date.

Known as “The Prince of Darkness,” Hamilton amassed a fortune of over $2 million before his death in 1875, a sum that would be worth more than $250 million today. One obituary said he was a “capitalist long identified with commercial enterprises in this city,” per The Atlantic; others were transparently racist. A letter published in the Freedom Journal during his lifetime called him a “base villain” for his various notorious financial dealings.

Though perhaps singular in his notoriety, Hamilton was far from the only Black person to establish himself as a millionaire despite racist policies that prevented many Black people from amassing capital. Madam C.J. Walker is believed to be the first self-made woman millionaire in the U.S., and a thriving section of Tulsa, Oklahoma, was known as “Black Wall Street” prior to its destruction by a white mob that murdered 300 people in 1921. Yet it wasn’t until 1970 that Joseph Serles III became the first Black floor member and floor broker in the New York Stock Exchange, 178 years after the Exchange’s founding.

A March 2021 report by the consulting firm McKinsey & Co. found that Hollywood may be leaving up to $10 billion on the table due to its lack of investing in Black talent both in front of and behind the camera, as well as movies and TV shows centered on Black characters. Black creatives accounted for 6% of producers and 4% of writers in movies released between 2015 and 2019, and that the likelihood that a movie or TV show hires a Black producer, director, or writer, increases if a Black person is in one of those positions to begin with.

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