Sarah Paulson will star in the HBO Max scripted adaptation of its docuseries The Way Down: God, Greed, and the Cult of Gwen Shamblin, Deadline reports. Shamblin was a charismatic figure with a carefully curated image who rose to fame with her Weigh Down Workshop, a Christian-based diet program, while also founding the Remnant Fellowship Church.
Shamblin was then accused of exploitation and emotional, psychological, and physical abuse through the church’s alleged cult-like practices. Such as controlling their finances, marriage, parenting, and contact with the outside world. Former Weigh Down Workshop members have also alleged that Shamblin encouraged disordered eating due to equating weight gain with sin.
Launched in September, The Way Down became HBO Max’s most-watched docuseries at the time of its release. It looks at the legacy of Remnamt’s infamous leader for the first three episodes. Just before finishing the HBO series, Shamblin and her husband died in a plane crash, leading the team behind the docuseries to pivot and produce additional episodes covering that.
The two additional episodes that followed examined the mysterious circumstances surrounding the crash and the investigation’s aftermath, including new stories from former survivors who felt compelled to share their experiences after Shamblin’s death. The second part of the series was released on April 28 on HBO Max.
The New Show
Paulson, who will be playing Shamblin, is certainly no stranger to playing real people, thanks to Ryan Murphy. As of right now, she’s fresh off the success of an Emmy-nominated performance as Linda Tripp in FX’s Impeachment: American Crime Story. Before that, she won an Emmy for portraying Marcia Clark in 2016’s The People v. O. J. Simpson: American Crime Story. Besides that, Paulson also played Mamie Eisenhower in American Horror Story: Double Feature.
The scripted series comes from Ross Dinerstein’s Campfire Studios and Chrissy Teigen’s Huntley Productions. Michelle Dean, who recently served as showrunner and executive producer of Hulu’s The Act, starring Patricia Arquette and Joey King, will be the showrunner of the scripted series. Marina Zenovich will direct it.
The series, which as of now is still in development, will be executive produced by Paulson, Dean, Dinerstein, Teigen, and Zenovich. In addition, Nile Cappello, P.G. Morgan, and Luke Dillon. Rebecca Evans and Ross Girard, who will serve as co-EPs. No other cast members have been announced at this time.
For those interested in the other side of the story, there’s a lengthy press release on the Remnant website denying the “absurd, defamatory statements and accusations made in this documentary,” even going as far as to dispute specific allegations within the series. Shamblin’s daughter Elizabeth Hannah also took aim at HBO Max during a sermon, saying she prayed hard so that “God would close the mouths of the enemy.”
While Elizabeth Hannah might have been overjoyed at how a new service combined with Discovery would replace HBO Max and their August 5 stock drop, there’s been no indication that The Way Down will be taken down on the new service. Or that this new series with Paulson will be canceled. Though only time will tell if the scripted show will reach the heights of success that the docuseries had.