Lisa Takeuchi Cullen, author of the debut novel Pastors’ Wives (Penguin/Plume, April), has sold to CBS a television pilot inspired by her late father, a former Catholic priest, to be called The Ordained. Cullen—a former journalist who until 2009 was a foreign correspondent and staff writer for Time magazine--is on a production team that is casting actors and scouting locations for shooting in March. “We find out in mid-May if CBS will be sending it to series,” she says.
Cullen's father grew up in a large Irish-Catholic family in Philadelphia and as a priest joined a charitable order, The Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate. In the 1960s, he was sent to a southern island of Japan, where he met Cullen’s mother, who was from a practicing Buddhist family. She converted to Catholicism, he asked to be released from the priesthood, and they married in 1969 and had four children in four years. “All of this happened after my father was 35,” Cullen says. “That really captured my imagination. What’s that like to start your life as a man after 35?”
Cullen's prospective television series is about such a man--named Tom Reilly, after her father--who is from a Kennedy-like family in present-day New York. “One day he takes a confession about a plot against his sister, who is currently the mayor of New York City. Their father is the former three-term governor of New York,” says Cullen. Because he is sworn not to disclose confessions, Reilly, who went to law school before his ordination, quits the priesthood and goes to work as an attorney so he can investigate the plot.
In contrast to his namesake character, who has anger issues and a dark side, Cullen’s father worked post-priesthood in advertising and was a funny, happy man who was “the life of the party,” she says, and successfully reinvented himself. “I hope that my character will make it there, but for now he has a lot more troubles on the way.”