“She is diverse, that is the way she is written,” the executive told THR immediately following his time in front of the press at the Television Critics Association’s winter press tour Tuesday. While Geller said it was too early in the process to explain just what he meant by diverse — whether Nancy is African-American, Asian-American or Latino, he said it would hinge on finding the right actress for the part. “[She will] not [be] Caucasian,” he stressed. “I’d be open to any ethnicity.”
CBS announced in October that it is developing a new Nancy Drew series. The drama, which is in development, is described as a contemporary take on the character from the iconic book series. Now in her 30s, Nancy is a detective for the NYPD where she investigates and solves crimes using her uncanny observational skills, all while navigating the complexities of life in a modern world. CBS Television Studios-based Dan Jinks will exec produce alongside Grey’s Anatomy alums Joan Rater and Tony Phelan, who also have deals with the studio.
The news comes months after CBS launched DC Comics take Supergirl as the network, under chief Nina Tassler, has made female empowerment a high priority.
Nancy Drew first appeared in books in 1930 and was originally created by Edward Stratemeyer. The beloved books have been ghostwritten by a series of authors and published under the pseudonym Carolyn Keene. The character has evolved in the decades since, though the original series — Nancy Drew Mystery Stories — ran from 1930 to 2003. The franchise has included spinoff series including Nancy Drew Files and collaborations with the Hardy Boys.
The character spawned a TV series — The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries — that ran for three seasons on ABC in the late 1970s starring Pamela Sue Martin (and later Janet Louise Johnson) as well as Shaun Cassidy and Parker Stevenson. The series was an anthology of sorts, with some episodes focusing only on Nancy Drew, and others on amateur sleuth siblings Frank and Joe Hardy. The series was produced by Glen A. Larson Productions and distributed by Universal Television. (Larson passed away in November.)
The 1970s ABC series was the first to feature Nancy, though CBS and producers Desilu (I Love Lucy) produced a pilot starring Roberta Shore based on the movies from the 1930s that ultimately never aired after author Harriet Adams (aka Keene) objected. Several other attempts to launch a TV series have been made in the decades since, including a failed Canadian series in the late ’80s that was canceled midway through its first season following poor ratings. More recently, ABC aired a Nancy Drew TV movie starring Maggie Lawson that was slated to run as a backdoor pilot. Despite ordering additional scripts, the project did not move forward.
On the film side, Bonita Granville played Nancy in four Warner Bros. films in the ’30s and, more recently, Emma Roberts (Scream Queens) played the famed sleuth in a 2007 movie from the same studio.
Historically, the character is a feminist icon whose cultural impact has influenced everyone from Sandra Day O’Connor and Hillary Clinton to Oprah Winfrey, Barbra Streisand and more.
The news comes a day after Netflix announced it was teaming with Norman Lear for an all-Latino remake of his classic sitcom One Day at a Time, as networks make diversity a priority in a bid to attract new underrepresented communities and better reflect society.
During his time in front of the press Tuesday, Geller stressed that diversity is playing a major role in his development season. “We have a lot of new series in development, both series targeted to have full African-American or Latino casts but also many leads that are being developed [as diverse]. We’re not casting color-blind, we’re casting color-conscious,” he said.