Actor Orlando Bloom is executive-producing a drama series for Amazon based on the cases of Washington lawyer Jared Genser, who specializes in freeing nonviolent political prisoners around the world.
Genser is managing director of downtown DC firm Perseus Strategies and founder of the nonprofit Freedom Now. He advocates for people who’ve been detained by foreign governments for their political or religious beliefs or for reasons like sexual orientation or ethnicity. His clients have included journalists, activists, politicians, and Nobel Peace Prize laureates. In 2010, Washingtonian chronicled his campaign to free a democracy activist from Gaithersburg imprisoned in Myanmar.
“We hope it’s going to be kind of a cross between a West Wing, a Homeland, and a Scandal,” Genser says in a conversation with Washingtonian about the yet-unnamed series. He’s a co-executive producer and will consult on the plot—which he stresses will be a fictionalized, dramatized version of what he does in real life. In fact, he says, “There’s no guarantee that my character will be, for example, a white Jewish guy like me. It could be a woman. It could be a person from any ethnic, racial, or religious background.”
Amazon is currently on the hunt for a writer. Genser says when he, Bloom, and the show’s other executive producer, former HBO honcho Bruce Richmond, pitched the series, they suggested that it take place at least in part in DC.
The show came to be thanks to one of Genser’s cases. He currently represents two American hostages in Iran, Siamak and Baquer Namazi. In the course of advocating for them, Genser met Iranian-British actress Nazanin Boniadi, an outspoken critic of the Iranian regime. He told her about his idea for the show, and she put him in touch with her agent at ICM Partners. The agency took Genser on as a client, and connected him with Bloom and Richmond.
Though the series is early enough in development that it could still fall through, Genser says he hopes it will help draw attention to the injustices he deals with every day. “The public at large remains generally pretty ignorant of the kinds of challenges that people face around the world, especially living under dictatorships,” he says. “Having these kinds of stories told, and in a way that I believe will be incredibly compelling, could have a real impact.”