Vince Gilligan

‘Breaking Bad’ Creator Vince Gilligan Set To Work On ‘Raven,’ A Limited Series About Jim Jones For HBO

Vince Gilligan, creator and executive producer of the Breaking Bad TV series has signed on to write for Raven, a limited series about Jim Jones for HBO. Gilligan will work once again with Michelle MacLaren, who will direct Raven. Both will also serve as executive directors along with actress Octavia Spencer on the project, reports Deadline.

Raven is based on Tim Reiterman’s personal account of meeting Jones in Guyana in November of 1978 and he barely lived to tell about it in his book, Raven: The Untold Story of Jim Jones and His People. The book tells the history of Jones’ life from childhood to his death, as well as many of the followers of The Peoples Temple of the Disciples of Christ cult.

Jim Jones
Rev. Jimmy Jones, founder of People’s temple, clasps an unidentified man at Jonestown, Nov. 18, 1978, during Congressman’ Leo J. Ryan’s visit. Shortly after, Ryan, newsman Don Harris, Cameraman Bob Brown and San Francisco Examiner photographer Greg Robinson, who took this photo, were killed in ambush at Port Kaituma, Guyana. (Photo by Greg Robinson / AO Images)

According to Reiterman’s book, Jim Jones had always struggled with wanting to be accepted and wanting to control. He would often play preacher with the neighbor kids up in the loft of a barn and would lock them in so that he would have a literal captive audience. As he grew up, he learned that he had a gift of preaching in that he was able to draw people out who wanted to make a difference in the world.

Tim Reiterman was a journalist working for the San Francisco Chronicle, who had been following Rev. Jones for some time when his reports of the man began to concern Congressman Leo Ryan. Ryan had constituents who had joined Jones’ group. Reiterman shared with Andrea Sachs of Time magazine in 2008 the accounts of what had happened when he and a small group of other journalists joined the congressman on a fact-finding mission to Jonestown, Guyana.

“He did not appear to be well. His skin appeared sallow. His eyes were almost gelatinous. His handshake seemed rather weak, and when he spoke there was a constant undercurrent of paranoia,” said Reiterman. “He even seemed to put a figurative gun in the hands of us journalists, saying we don’t need to shoot him, that our words have that kind of effect. He was clearly viewing himself as a martyr and it was very bothersome to realize that over 900 lives were in the hands of this man.”

While there, Reiterman witnessed 15 disciples, who had been long-time followers of Jones, state that they wished to leave Jonestown. Jones said that his temple was about to be destroyed from within.

“What he meant by that was that these defectors were going to tell the world eventually what was really going on inside Jonestown, and that the end was drawing near,” says Reiterman. “So it was a very ominous moment before we even left Jonestown.”

Tim Reiterman
San Francisco Examiner reporter Tim Reiterman leans out the window of ambulance bus at Andrews Air Force base,Md. Sunday November 20, 1978 after returning from The People’s Temple mass suicide scene. Reiterman shaking hands with well-wishers. (Image via AP Photo)

When Tim and the rest of his group were about to leave and board their plane, they were ambushed by Jones’ gunmen. The congressman and four others were killed. Reiterman was shot, but survived. Unfortunately, 900 members of the Jones’ church, including Jones himself, died that same day by drinking a poisoned beverage. That is where the phrase, “drinking the Kool-Aid” came from.

Ironically, Raven isn’t the only Jim Jones series that is in the beginning stages. Another is being created for A&E that is being produced by Jake Gyllenhaal. The second project is said to be an anthology series that would focus on different American cults, with the first season dedicated to Jones.

[Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images]