After Clay Aiken lost his congressional bid to represent the 2nd district in North Carolina last week, some prominent Hollywood backers were critical. They felt duped when, hours after the American Idol alum conceded the race, he announced plans for a 4 hour docu-series to air on Esquire TV in 2015.
“I am sorry for the loss on your bid for Congress,” wrote producer and activist, Steve Tyler, in a letter to the candidate, “but apparently you had yourself covered with a reality TV show deal the entire time, just in case you didn’t win.”
Now one of the producers of the docu-series, Jonathan Chinn, who likens the production to such serious fare as The War Room and Mitt, tells The Hollywood Reporter that the deal didn’t come together until after Clay’s campaign was underway:
The project came together in February after Jonathan flew to Aiken’s North Carolina campaign headquarters to court the American Idol alum, whom he found to be “intelligent, highly motivated and incredibly sincere.” Aiken, 35, agreed to grant the duo full access, and Esquire came on board shortly after that. (“There was no ‘deal’ — he signed an appearance release,” says Jonathan, who dismisses complaints from some donors now claiming to have been “duped” as “much ado about nothing.”)
The production kept as “low a profile as possible” until its Election Day announcement, hours after Aiken’s concession speech. Recalls Jonathan, “It was a gloomy room.”
The series will be produced by Lightbox’s Simon and Jonathan Chinn.