Rick James has one of the craziest life stories in music history, and now a TV show is in the works to tell it. Universal Studio Group’s UCP is developing a limited series called Super Freak that will detail the late soul singer’s music career and myriad legal issues.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, the studio is describing the series “a funkadelic mix of music biopic and true crime” that will trace the singer’s come-up in the ’60s, the “Super Freak” years of the ’80s, and his mid-90s comeback that was derailed by kidnapping and assault charges and a debilitating crack addiction.
Randy McKinnon (author of Notes From a Young Black Chef and screenwriter for Netflix’s Grand Army) has been tapped to write and co- executive produce the series alongside a host of other EP’s. Among them are James’ daughter, Ty James, Nick Antosca (The Act, Chucky), Alex Hedlund, and journalist Mike Sager, who profiled James for Rolling Stone in 1995 and remained his friend until the singer’s 2004 death.
“We are truly ecstatic about this new project with UCP and extremely excited to work with the writer Randy McKinnon,” said Ty James. “We are confident he can give the fans exactly what they have been waiting on, plus some. This will be a magic carpet ride, with ups and downs, joys and pain — a story of perseverance and tenacity, with the music being the greatest navigation system. Get ready for the ride of your lives — the story of James A. Johnson, aka Rick James.”
According to Variety, no streaming service or network has purchased the series so far. It goes without saying that whoever does commission the show will have to thread the needle between James’ influential music career and his troubling personal life. In addition to those violent charges back in the ’90s, a woman sued his estate earlier this year for an alleged sexual assault back in 1979.
Like many artists who reached his level of fame, he had a messy past, but it sounds like the nature of the TV show will be taking a nuanced look at his story.