The project found itself at the center of a heated bidding war between broadcast networks and cable networks, with CBS ultimately proving triumphant by committing to a 13-episode straight-to-series order. Extant has been billed as a futuristic thriller about a female astronaut (Berry) trying to reconnect with her family when she returns after a year in outer space. The character's experiences lead to events that ultimately change the course of human history. The casting coup of Berry is as much a commentary on the strength of the spec script as it is on the state of the film business, particularly for actresses over 40.
"Halle is the type of award-winning actress you dream of collaborating with for an event project such as Extant," said CBS Entertainment president Nina Tassler. "Her talent and ability to immerse herself into every performance has created memorable roles that have resonated with audiences everywhere. It's a big coup for CBS to have Halle star in her first television series, especially with such an exciting original concept and a role layered with mystery and humanity."
Added Berry: "I'm always on the lookout for amazing roles, and when you see material that contains this strong of auspices, nuance and complexity, it compels me to run toward it no matter the medium. For five months a year I'll get to live with and play this incredibly intelligent and vulnerable woman. And for the remainder of the year, I'll continue to look for other roles that move me as deeply as this one. I've found amazing partners in CBS's Nina Tassler and Les Moonves, and the incredible Steven Spielberg, along with his Amblin production team, whose vision and creativity in storytelling is unparalleled."
Spielberg, along with Greg Walker and Mickey Fisher, who penned the script, will executive produce with Brooklyn Weaver, Justin Falvey and Darryl Frank. CBS Television Distribution will handle domestic distribution, while CBS Studios International will handle worldwide rights. Adam Rodin will co-exec produce. Said Spielberg: "There's only one Halle Berry, and we are incredibly honored that she has chosen Extant to expand her illustrious career. As she does with everything she touches, she will bring a deep authenticity to her role, and I very much look forward to working with her."
The drama reteams CBS with Spielberg's Amblin, which also is behind this summer's top scripted drama Under the Dome. The network has already renewed Dome for a second season after the pricey series proved that there's a home for high-quality original scripted programming during the typically low-rated summer months. To make the latter feasible, CBS struck an early content licensing deal with Amazon, giving Amazon Prime members unlimited access to the serialized drama four days after it aired on the network broadcast.
To be sure, this isn't Berry's first foray into TV. Her small-screen roles have included HBO's Introducing Dorothy Dandridge, for which she earned an Emmy, a Golden Globe and a SAG Award. She also earned Emmy and Golden Globe nominations for Oprah Winfrey's Their Eyes Were Watching God.
Berry, who is repped by Vincent Cirrincione and CAA, won the Academy award for Monster's Ball. Her other feature film credits include X-Men and Die Another Day.