LOS ANGELES—In announcing his return to the Cleveland Cavaliers on Friday, superstar basketball player LeBron James said, “I’m not having a press conference or a party. After this, it’s time to get to work.”
And he wasn’t just talking about his basketball career. Like NBA icons Michael Jordan and Shaquille O’Neal before him, James is also turning his attention to Hollywood, executive producing the upcoming Starz comedy series Survivor’s Remorse.
The Entourage-like show, which premieres Oct. 4, centers around Cam Calloway (Jessie T. Usher), an undrafted free agent who after four years in professional basketball, signs a multimillion deal and makes it big for the first time. He moves to Atlanta, with his family in tow. It also delves into the ties to the rough neighborhood Cam came from (Dorchester, Massachusetts, outside Boston), and his guilt about making it big when his childhood pals did not.
The otherwise-occupied James wasn’t in attendance when the cast and producers discussed the show on July 11 at the Television Critics Association’s summer press tour. “He may be in the HR office going through his paperwork for his new job,” joked his manager and business partner Maverick Carter, who developed the idea for the show with executive producer Tom Werner (The Cosby Show, That ‘70s Show), with input from James.
Despite the show’s obvious parallels to the life of its superstar producer, “this is not a show about LeBron James. This is a fictional show,” said executive producer Mike O’Malley, who admitted that they changed the original script, which was originally set in Cleveland (near James’s Ohio hometown of Akron), to distance themselves from those comparisons.
While he was involved with the development process early on, James isn’t hands-on during the actual production of Survivor’s Remorse. “From the beginning, he was involved in the overall concept of the show,” said Carter. James won’t be appearing in the series but, said Usher, he “adds authenticity to the show as well [as] someone who is actually living the life.”
James will go before the camera for director Judd Apatow’s next comedy, Trainwreck, which will come out next summer. But despite his love for film and TV (“I have a deep passion for the amazing television being created right now,” he said last year, adding that his favorite TV shows include Boardwalk Empire, Scandal and 24), his involvement in these two projects doesn’t mean he’s laying groundwork for a post-NBA career in Hollywood.
“It’s not necessarily a concerted effort, but it’s something that he enjoys from doing commercials and things,” said Carter. “I don’t think he’s going to pick up and move out [to Los Angeles] and start doing this.” James’s focus on basketball, Carter added, “is definitely number one, by a long shot.”