Arkansas filmmakers Graham Gordy and Daniel Campbell, who wrote the 2018 feature film “Antiquities,” are now the creators for Courteney Cox’s “Last Chance U,” a drama based on the Netflix documentary series of the same name. Cox, of “Friends” fame, will star and produce the drama for Spectrum Originals. “Last Chance U” focuses on a group of athletes in a football program at East Mississippi Community College — students struggling to make the cut for SEC or other Division I football programs at larger schools.
Spectrum Originals noted in an article for Deadline that it is deciding “whether it will pilot or go straight-to-series on the project.”
Though Netflix’s documentary series focuses on the EMCC players and their head coach Buddy Stephens, it’s the school’s academic counselor, Brittany Wagner, who emerges as a central figure in this adaptation. Cox will star as Wagner in Spectrum’s dramatization. “She’s definitely the center of the storyline,” Campbell said. “We’re kind of seeing it through her eyes.” The story as they see it, Gordy said, has a lot to do with a balancing act on Wagner’s part — a balance “essentially, between her family and this family she’s taken on.”
Wagner “becomes sort of an inadvertent mother to these kids,” Gordy said. “The ‘Last Chance U’ of it all is that if they don’t turn stuff around, that this is their only shot, basically.” Cox and Wagner, Campbell said, hit it off after Cox secured the rights to develop the “Last Chance U” story, and both Cox and Wagner have remained in close touch with Gordy and Campbell during the process of writing an outline for the potential series. (Cox has known both Gordy and Campbell for a while, in part because fellow Arkansas film guru Jayme Lemons oversaw feature development for four years at Coquette, Cox’s production company.) “Courteney Cox is a part of every aspect of this,” Gordy said. “If both Brittany and Courteney weren’t such a big part of this, and saying, like, ‘Oh, this doesn’t sound like me,’ I don’t think either one of us would have had the audacity to think we were the perfect people to tell this story.”
One thing Gordy and Campbell do have in their favor, though, is a shared understanding of the “Southern and the Arkansan,” Gordy said — the part of the country from which EMCC’s story sprung. Scooba, Miss., where the community college is located, reminded Gordy and Campbell of the Helena-West Helena area. “If it were up to us,” Campbell said, “it’d be shot in Arkansas.”
In fact, Gordy and Campbell elected to move the story across the river, from the Mississippi Delta to the Arkansas delta. “God knows if they’ll accept that, in the script,” Gordy said, “or if they’ll say, ‘Hey, this would be great in Georgia,’ or whatever.”
Though Spectrum has yet to announce they’ll develop and film a whole series, this week’s announcement is reason for optimism, Gordy and Campbell say. “We’re writing it as a pilot,” Campbell said, “and hopefully they come back and ask us where it goes from there, and they decide whether they want to do a full season or not.”