Eternals writer-director, Chloé Zhao has signed to executive produce Participant’s limited scripted series based on the 1982 murder of Chinese-American auto engineer, Vincent Chin. The production company’s upcoming show, which marks the filmmaker’s first venture into television, will also focus on the civil rights case that followed his death, Deadline is reporting.
The untitled series is in development through an exclusive agreement with the Chin estate and executor Helen Zia. The show will be the only authorized telling of the noteworthy civil rights case that occurred after Chin’s murder.
In the summer of 1982, the engineer was assaulted while he was celebrating his bachelor party at the Fancy Pants strip club in Detroit by two white disgruntled autoworkers, Ronald Ebens and Michael Nitz. The duo assumed Chin was of Japanese descent and blamed him for Japan’s success in the automotive market and for stealing their jobs.
At the time, Detroit was the automotive capital of the world, but was at the worst point of an economic downturn. Competition from Japan was affect the profits of U.S. automakers, which drove them to lay off hundreds of thousands of people across Michigan, including Ebens’ stepson, Nitz. After the group was kicked out of the club, the fight continued, and Ebens and Nitz eventually chased Chin down to a nearby McDonald’s. With the help of Nitz, Ebens beat repeatedly beat Chin over the head with a baseball bat. He was killed four days before his wedding.
Ebens and Nitz were later given lenient sentences of probation and minimal fines. Chin’s death and his murderers’ punishment sparked widespread outrage in America, which led to raging debates on race. While discussing the reason why she signed on to executive produce the series, Zhao stated: “I was deeply moved by Helen’s personal connection to Vincent’s story as well as her incredibly insightful and nuanced perspective on this difficult yet inspiring story,” said the filmmaker, who won two Academy Awards earlier this year for her drama, Nomadland, including Best Drama as one of the feature’s producers. “I’m very honored to join the team and to embark on this journey together.”
Zhao will executive produce the show with Zia, Vicangelo Bulluck, Paula Madison and Donald Young. Zia is a former autoworker-turned-journalist who also became the spokesperson for the Justice for Vincent Chin Campaign. Miura Kite, SVP of Global TV, will oversee the series on behalf of Participant.
“Chloé Zhao has the vision and sensitivity to unpack the complexities of racism, hate, violence and injustice, Zia noted as she praised her fellow executive producer. “We are eager for Chloé’s insights into the multilayered story of Vincent Chin, who was killed in Detroit as it faced economic collapse, where Asian immigrants were unwelcome yet struggled for legitimacy, where masculinity and homophobia added to the toxic brew of communities in conflict–and where people came together to fight for the humanity of Vincent and all people. We can’t overstate how enthused we are that Chloé Zhao has joined our project.”