Tag Archives: Fox Networks Group Content Distribution

Gael force

Golden Globe-winning actor, producer and director Gael García Bernal tells DQ about his latest TV series, Mexico-set Aquí en la Tierra (Here on Earth).

From films such as The Motorcycle Diaries and Y Tu Mamá También to Babel and a Golden Globe-winning role in Amazon series Mozart in the Jungle, Gael García Bernal stands tall as one of Mexico’s most successful and dynamic screen exports.

But his latest TV series sees him return home, where he is putting in a performance both in front of and behind the camera. Aquí en la Tierra (Here on Earth), co-created by Bernal, is an eight-part series that follows the interlinking lives of Carlos Calles, played by Alfonso Dosal, and Adán Cruz (Tenoch Huerta).

Carlos’s life is radically altered when his father, the republic’s anti-corruption prosecutor, is found dead. At the same time, Adán, the son of the head of security for Carlos’s family, is disturbed by riots in his village: rebels are protesting against the construction of a new airport endorsed by Governor Mario Rocha, Carlos’s stepfather.

Bernal plays a character known as ‘The Bird’ in Aquí en la Tierra

Friends from childhood despite their different backgrounds and social standing, Carlos and Adán are forced to face changing circumstances, bringing their fears, ambitions and deepest moral dilemmas into play. The series is produced by La Corriente del Golfo Production for pan-Latin America network Fox Premium. Fox Networks Group Content Distribution is handling sales.

“It’s all about the perils of inheritance,” Bernal explains. “What happens to people when they inherit so much? And what problems do they have from money and a social structure they didn’t ask for? Do they have to justify every day why they have so much, or do they rebel? What we do is point out this journey in Latin America.

“It’s very politicised, very energetic and multi-layered. They are issues the whole world shares with Latin America – the feeling we can be so much better but something is not quite there.”

Bernal himself has a supporting role as El Pájaro (The Bird), an influential fixer with contacts among the world’s elite politicians and financiers. But on top of that, he co-created the series with Kyzza Terrazas and Jorge Dorantes and is also among the executive producers and directors.

“This is an idea we had a long time ago but back then we couldn’t do it as a TV show,” Bernal says. “It was very difficult for this type of show to be made, because in Latin America the whole media landscape was connected by different companies that were not trying to do these types of shows. Then a few years ago, we started developing it, invited people to participate and then went around to see where we could place it. Fox were very keen and they’ve been great. They gave us the freedom to experiment. We went on a fantastic journey.”

Bernal is also the lead director of the show, which he co-created

Part of that journey has seen Bernal as the lead director, helming the first episode of the Spanish-language thriller. He has previous experience behind the camera so he was keen to extend his education, working alongside talents such as Everado Gout (Mars), who steered episodes two, three and four. Others include Alonso Ruizpalacios, Mariana Chenillo and Adrian Grunberg.

“We created the show, so directing felt like an extension of that,” Bernal says. “Directing is something I have been playing with a lot. I had a chance to do it with Mozart so I said I would do it, now that I know the amount of work it takes.” On directing the first episode, he adds: “It’s so important to set the tone. We’re making a fable, inventing something. That requires a little bit of realisation and needs some direction. We’re not trying to do a documentary, we’re not trying to show reality. We know what’s on in the news, so this is the stylised, off-beat version.

“We put together a very good group of directors. We wanted to establish a style but also we wanted to play around with the fact every director will come with a new idea. It’s very dramatic in the way it’s shot and its tempo. We wanted to experiment with that. We didn’t want to copy or emulate another project; we wanted to have that freedom that every director brings with their own point of view and to just enjoy the show. It’s not in any established genre, it’s not like an action series or a romantic comedy. It’s got many tones and you can play with that. The result is quite nice.”

For now, however, acting is still Bernal’s priority. “I love being an actor and want to be an actor as long as I don’t get pulled in too many directions,” he adds. “I want to have time to focus on life and not other lives [on screen]. I want time to be with my family.”

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Stroke of Genius

Spanish screen star Antonio Banderas transforms into one of his personal heroes for the second instalment of National Geographic scripted anthology series Genius. He tells DQ about playing the many faces of celebrated artist Pablo Picasso.

When it debuted in 2017, the first season of National Geographic’s anthology drama Genius became a critical and popular hit, drawing more than 45 million viewers worldwide and earning Emmy and Golden Globe nominations for its focus on the life of Albert Einstein.

Season two, launching around the world from next Monday, turns its attention to Spanish painter Pablo Picasso, with Antonio Banderas (The Mask of Zorro) playing one of the 20th century’s most influential and celebrated artists. The drama explores how Picasso imagined and interpreted the world in new and unorthodox ways – but also how his nature and relentless creative drive were inextricably linked to his personal life, which included tumultuous marriages, numerous affairs and constantly shifting political and personal alliances.

Genius: Picasso is produced by Fox 21 Television Studios, Imagine Television, Madison Wells Media’s Odd-lot Entertainment and EUE/Sokolow, and distributed by Fox Networks Group Content Distribution.

Here, Banderas tells DQ about his longtime interest in Picasso, how he gets into character and the challenges of portraying a man with as many faces as the portraits
he paints.

Genius: Picasso stars Antonio Banderas as the celebrated Spanish artist

DQ: You say Picasso fascinates you – why?
Banderas: Because I am an artist. And when you recognise a real one, an honest one, somebody who is way bigger than you, there are no other words than fascination and curiosity. Besides that, he was born in my hometown, Málaga, and he was probably the only international hero we had at the time.

How was the series pitched to you and what was the appeal of taking on the role?
I didn’t know when I saw Genius: Einstein that there was going to be another one or that it was going to be dedicated to Picasso. But I loved it. I loved the quality of it. And I loved the fact that National Geographic, which is a channel that goes behind the facts, was going to explore the life of Picasso. I was also attracted by the presence of people I admire like [executive producer] Ron Howard and [showrunner] Ken Biller. So those things were guarantees that what we were going to do was something serious and well put together.

After portraying Pancho Villa (in And Starring Pancho Villa As Himself) and Che Guevara (Evita), what is your acting approach to playing someone who existed in real life?
Trying to get as much information as I can is number one, so I read books. Then I try to understand the script and how the character is positioned in the story, and then to understand the bible created by the creators – not only the script, but also how it is going to be shaped. What is the narrative process we’re going to follow? Is it going to be linear, or we are going to be jumping back and forth – as we are, actually. So trying to understand the entire project, from content to form.

How does the series tackle the story of Picasso’s life?
The only problem we have is that Picasso didn’t write very much about himself and he did very few interviews. He basically talked through his paintings. So all we know about Picasso is through the people who surrounded him, and everybody who was in the orbit of that planet called Picasso was affected by him in one way or another, good or bad.
Who he was is something we have to determine. I made decisions, sometimes followed by creating my own intuition, listening to as many voices as I could. I may question myself and say, ‘I think he did this. Now that I know the guy, I think he took this action for this reason.’ So I take those choices, supported or not, by the material that I have in front of me, which is the script.

Banderas and Samantha Colley (as one of the artist’s lovers) take to the beach

Do you like art and enjoy painting? Are you a fan of Picasso’s work?
Hell yeah. Picasso is my favourite painter of all time. But before I even became an artist, when I was a kid, I loved Picasso. The thing that has always fascinated me about him is he practically did everything. Matisse is an amazing painter, but he’s got a very specific style. Picasso went through practically every style invented. And then there is a tremendous sincerity to him. He never looked for applause. He never worked for anybody except himself. That is amazing and, in our day, practically impossible.

How were the scenes of you painting filmed? Did you take any lessons or practice a lot?
I practiced the mechanics of brush strokes, holding the brush and understanding how the paints, brush and canvas interact. But my focus was more on understanding the character.

How did you transform yourself into Picasso?
It’s not a job I do alone. My character, and everybody’s character in this production, is made through teamwork. You cannot do this by yourself. Two people were fundamental: Davina Lamont, our head of hair and makeup, and Sonu Mishra, our head of costumes. I have never been so affected by the creation of a character. Never, in any movie – I’ve done 105 movies.
Sonu had studied deeply the complexity of how Picasso dressed himself, so when I step into his pants every morning, the character comes to me. It makes me smaller in size, it makes me wider, it makes me more wrinkled like Picasso. But I don’t think Picasso was very worried about the way he looked or anything like that. He had this kind of Bohemian ‘I don’t give a shit’ thing, and Sonu got that completely. She helped me enormously to understand the character. The way you dress is a proclamation of who you want to portray yourself as in front of others, so what she gave me was extraordinary.
Then in the prosthetic setup, there was a lot of suffering every morning. You have to learn to play with them because they are kind of a mask, but you have a person behind them like Davina who gives you tremendous security. She did a job with the character that is unbelievable, priceless. When they put things on top of you, you’ve got to know the value of gesturing, for example, or mannerisms. It’s a different face that you have to learn how to use.

The real Pablo Picasso, who died in 1973

How involved are you behind the scenes? Do you work closely with the writers and directors?
Absolutely. I had the scriptwriters around me and I could discuss certain lines. When I proposed things, sometimes they accepted my ideas. And it was the same with the directors, especially Ken Biller. Ken is the pump of the whole thing: he created the bible, he’s got the biggest responsibility on set and he listens a lot. Málaga, for example, was not in the schedule, but I made him come to Málaga and see where Picasso was born and the church where he was baptised, and those places were used [in the series]. He gave me a gift – he allowed me to shoot one scene in Málaga on the beach. It should probably have been done in Malta later, but we did it there in Málaga. It would have been beautiful for me as a kid to see Picasso walking on the beaches of Málaga.

What was the biggest challenge you faced on the show?
It’s funny, in [his grandson] Olivier Picasso’s book, it says Picasso hated his voice. That’s one of the reasons he didn’t do many interviews on radio or TV. So I created a voice for him. I make him a little bit lower in voice and try to give him a little bit more gravity. There is something in the way he walks and talks and I tried to use that and expand it. The only interview I have seen him do was for Belgian television, and he speaks almost like an Italian. I remember my father speaking like that, and my uncle Pepe.
The most difficult thing was that there were many different Picassos. There is a Picasso for every style, for every wife, for every lover. He transformed himself like he transformed his own painting. So sometimes he can be cruel, sometimes he can be a very lovely guy. It just depends. He’s a genius. And very confident, very secure in his skills as a painter. That gave him a tremendous security, and that is very dangerous too because if he finds people in his way, he becomes dismissive. And that can create a lot of problems.

Do you see yourself doing more writing and directing in the future?
Yes. In fact, that’s what I want to do, really. I’ve done two movies as a director [Crazy in Alabama and Summer Rain], but they were based on books and the novelists wrote the scripts. I want to write and direct the way I see the world. There’s a number of issues I would love to reflect about families, and another issue is hypocrisy. The way we live, we are all actors playing roles. We don’t express what we feel, and now with social networks, you start seeing what is inside, and it’s very dark.
When you are anonymous, what comes out is horrendous. So I’d like to make movies about that, about the true self of a human being and how we portray ourselves in society.

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In Deep

The stars of Fox Europe and Africa’s first original drama, Deep State, tell DQ why this isn’t just another espionage thriller – and why actors are well suited to playing spies.

Inside a conference room overlooking the central London set of Deep State, actors Joe Dempsie and Karima McAdams are engaged in a wordless conversation with producer Tom Nash. Uncertain looks and nods are exchanged as they determine what they can and can’t say about the eight-part series ahead of its launch. State secrets would be easier to extract than any potential spoilers.

What can be said is that the story centres on Max Easton (played by Mark Strong), an ex-spy whose past comes back to haunt him when he’s summoned away from his new life in the Pyrenees by George White (Alistair Petrie), head of covert MI6/CIA team The Section.

White convinces Max to return to the field to avenge the death of his estranged son Harry (Dempsie). But the stakes are soon raised when Max finds himself at the heart of a covert intelligence war, immersed in a widespread conspiracy to profit from the spread of chaos in the Middle East. So begins a dangerous game in which Easton must determine who he can trust, what the truth is and how can he uncover it.

Produced by Endor Productions and distributed by Fox Networks Group Content Distribution, the show’s creative team also includes executive producer Hilary Bevan-Jones, showrunner and director Matthew Parkhill, co-creator and writer Simon Maxwell and director Robert Connolly.

Deep State stars Mark Strong as former spy Max Easton

When the series opens, Dempsie’s Harry and Leila, played by McAdams, are both members of The Section, together on a posting in Tehran where their mission is to assassinate five prominent Iranian nuclear scientists.

Harry’s fairly green to this spy game, recently given his licence to kill, while half-British, half-Moroccan Leila is a linguistics expert with her feet in both the Arab and Western worlds.

“They’re on a job together in Tehran, a deeply religious place, so they have to go undercover as a couple working in an English-language school,” says McAdams, who has also starred in Vikings. “That’s where it becomes interesting because spies essentially don’t trust anyone so the idea of a relationship is incredibly complicated. But you can’t help your human instinct. They have a journey with each other and whether it’s real or not, you explore that with them.”

It’s a relationship Dempsie believes spies and actors have in common. “Harry and Leila are having to play this part so they find themselves in this fairly confusing situation where the lines become blurred, as it sometimes can on a film set. Then you have the added layer of the mistrust of everyone around you and that adds a fascinating element to their relationship.”

Game of Thrones actor Joe Dempsie plays Max’s son, Harry

Dempsie describes showrunner Parkhill’s script as “a real page-turner” that juggles politics, espionage and familial themes in settings that include the UK, the US, Iran, Lebanon and France.

“I was guilty as anyone of watching a TV show but also half flicking through Instagram or whatever at the same time,” the Game of Thrones actor admits. “This is something that demands your full attention. At the heart of it, it’s very character-driven and that’s what hopefully might make this stand apart from other spy dramas or thrillers. You get to see these characters in a familial setting and you explore their interpersonal relationships in a way that you don’t often see. It’s not all about the action. They’re not just these highly trained machines. There are layers to this.”

The script also stood out to McAdams, but for a different reason. “There were so many scripts being bandied about at that point that weren’t sitting right with me because there was so much gratuitous nudity,” she says, adding that Leila is an incredibly private woman struggling with an undisclosed horror from her past. “She’s vulnerable but, within this group of people she’s working with, she’s incredibly capable. There is no difference between man and woman in this group and I think that’s incredibly refreshing. They don’t ever refer to her as a sex symbol, she’s never thrown into a job because she’s female. Matthew has written a character that is very different from what I’ve been seeing.”

At the emotional centre of Deep State is Lyne Renée, who plays Max’s wife, Anna. Living happily with her husband and their two children, Anna’s world is shattered when she discovers Max’s secret past and the fact he has another son.

Lyne Renée, who plays Max’s wife Anna, is at the emotional centre of the drama

“Anna comes to new truths and realities that were hidden from her, and she goes to look for them as well,” the actor says. “She’s not just the mother with the two children. The beauty of this part is how certain strengths come with that. With everything that comes to light, she has to remain strong. Anna is a lioness and you’ve got to be very careful because when you come across a lioness with two cubs and she’s hurt, you are in deep trouble because they become stronger.”

Anna is very different from the character Renée played in a similar drama, Sky1 and Cinemax copro Strike Back, a Mossad agent who was in the thick of that show’s political storyline. “Here my character has nothing to do with the political side of the world,” she notes. “All the consequences happen to everyone but my position is not political. It’s the domestic side, the emotional side. I haven’t been running around with guns or working undercover, so that is the biggest difference.”

The strain on Anna is one Renée faced every day on set as she imagined herself in her character’s overwhelming situation. “I was a little worried about how I was going to pull this off,” she explains. “It’s so intense what happens to Anna. All the things that happen to her have never happened to me before so I really had to think, ‘What are the implications? What happens to a person who has to go through all that?’ But by letting it go, I created the freedom to step into each moment every day. I felt like I pushed my own boundaries and succeeded in showing these emotions, which was not easy. I need to do a comedy after this!”

Also among the cast is Alistair Petrie, who recently starred in fellow spy drama The Night Manager. He plays George White, the head of The Section who brings Max back into the fold – a reunion on and off-screen, as Petrie and Strong previously worked together on 1996 period drama Emma.

The Night Manager’s Alistair Petrie as spy boss George White

“There’s an alchemy to making a television show. If you bottled it and poured it onto a script, everybody would be doing it but it’s a difficult, nuanced thing to do,” he says, highlighting the importance of writer, cast, director and crew. “You put all the elements in place and you’ve got a really good chance, but it starts with the script. As soon as I read it, I thought it was fantastic.”

Petrie says every character in Deep State faces moral dilemmas through the series, something he believes sets it apart from the usual spy/thriller/action shows. “Where drama can be so successful is that its job is to hold a mirror up to society,” he explains. “We take a good look at ourselves. A really successful drama works on a lot of those levels and it doesn’t matter what that genre is.

“What Deep State does rather brilliantly is every character has all got very familial moral dilemmas they have to confront. A lot of it is based on truths and lies about protecting family and what you do to protect your family. That’s why drama is so successful on television and film; we’re given stories and then we’re given choices and we’re given moral dilemmas, brilliantly wrapped up in an exciting piece of television. If you can engage an audience like that and create well-written characters with fantastic foundations, you can take an audience anywhere.”

With a second season already confirmed ahead of the launch of the series, which debuts in the UK tonight, Fox clearly believes Deep State has found the formula for that elusive alchemy.

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InBetween two worlds

Australian director Nash Edgerton makes his television debut with Mr InBetween, a dark comedy-drama about a hitman juggling his personal and professional lives. He tells DQ about the battle to get the series made, 13 years after the film that inspired it.

When it airs later this year, the debut of Australian dark comedy-drama Mr InBetween will mark the end of a long journey for director Nash Edgerton and writer Scott Ryan.

In 2005 they worked together on The Magician, a mockumentary-style feature about a Melbourne assassin who is both ruthless and caring, played by Ryan, who also wrote and directed the film. Edgerton was a producer.

Thirteen years later, a long-championed television follow-up, Mr InBetween, sees Ryan return as Ray Shoesmith – father, ex-husband, boyfriend, hitman. This time Edgerton is behind the camera.

Nash Edgerton

“We spent years developing scripts,” says Edgerton. “We got close a few times to getting it up within the first few years after the movie. But there weren’t as many avenues in TV at that time, especially in Australia, so it got to a certain point and it didn’t happen.”

One reason why the project kept stalling was Edgerton’s loyalty to Ryan in the face of executives who would have preferred to cast a more recognisable name in the leading role. “I just kept saying, ‘I’m only going to make it if Scott’s going to be in it,’” Edgerton recalls. “Because as far as I was concerned, he was the guy and the reason I was interested in doing it. So I just kept holding out until I got to make it with him. But for me, it was worth the weight to do it with him in that key role and I think the show’s better for it.”

For Edgerton, Scott’s performance in The Magician was one of the highlights of the movie, and he notes that despite the actor/writer’s absence from the screen for more than a decade, Scott could have passed for a seasoned actor on set. “He seems so comfortable in front of the camera. He’s so watchable and enjoyable, to watch him bounce between these two worlds in his life, his personal life and his work life,” he explains.

Scott certainly brings to life the languid, laconic Ray, a man who drifts between his visits to his brother’s home and looking after his daughter to walks in the park with his dog, where he meets potential love interest Ally (Brooke Satchwell). He also finds time to negotiate his day job. One notable incident involves making a man dig his own grave before Ray fires the trigger.

“He’s quite reserved but he has his own clear moral centre – it’s a little left of centre than most people’s but he has a code that he navigates his life by,” Edgerton says of the main character. “He cares about his family and his friends. What’s interesting to me about the show and what drove Scott to do it is he’s read all these books and autobiographies on real-life killers and realised that, as much as that’s their job, they’re still regular people. They still have the same things going on in their lives that anyone else has. It just happens to be that their job is killing people for money.”

Edgerton on set with Mr InBetween star and writer Scott Ryan

Edgerton kept himself busy during the long hiatus between movie and series by directing short films and making his debut Hollywood feature, Gringo, which stars Charlize Theron, David Oyelowo, Amanda Seyfried and the director’s brother Joel, and is out in cinemas today. In fact, Edgerton was shooting Mr InBetween while in post-production on Gringo, providing him with a stark illustration of the differences between making a film and a television series.

“I shot it like a three-hour movie but I edited it like six short films,” he says of the 6×30′ Mr InBetween. “As much as the episodes connect to each other, they’re all still different. The work is contained, they all have their own thing. I actually found that a lot easier to edit than I did the movie because with the movie, you’re trying to sustain almost two hours of a story; but with the TV show, you’re sustaining 25 minutes at a time. Having not done TV before, I wasn’t sure what that was going to feel like but it was somehow more manageable and a quicker process to edit because of that.”

Made for just A$3,000 (US$2,300), The Magician was “super lo-fi,” Edgerton says, describing the film as a buddy movie between Ray and the Italian film student who is holding the camera but whom the audience never sees.

The series focuses on a hitman as he moves between the different worlds of his personal and professional lives

“I wanted the series to feel very natural, light, handheld – I was trying to recapture the feeling the ‘documentary’ gave me, so I was trying to film it that way, just to give more authenticity to the scenes and moments in the show,” he says. “TV is a lot faster [than film]. I had almost 50 days to shoot Gringo, which is one hour and 50 minutes, and then I shot three hours of television in 30 days. So in that way, it was much more of a machine with a much smaller crew but, because I’d never made TV before, I actually blocked it like a movie, so I shot it like a movie. All I’ve made is films and short films, and some music videos, so that was the only way I knew how to make it.”

As well as working behind the camera, Edgerton also had some input during the scriptwriting process, offering suggestions to Ryan. In particular, this manifested itself in terms of Ray’s interactions with his daughter Brittany, which would be based on Edgerton’s conversations with his own daughter, such as a debate over the existence of Santa Claus and Brittany’s insistence that Ray’s friends abide by her swear-jar policy.

In fact, it was casting Brittany that Edgerton says was the biggest challenge, but he didn’t have far to look to find the right actor. His brother Joel isn’t the only family member he has directed – now he can also add daughter Chika Yasumura to the list. And it turned out to be “one of the best directing experiences I’ve had,” Edgerton says.

Ryan alongside his co-star Chika Yasumura, who is Edgerton’s daughter

“Leading up to it, I was quite nervous because she won’t clean up her room when I ask her to, so how am I going to direct her? But she turned out to be so great. My younger brother [Joel], I’m used to telling what to do but Chika was a whole other ball game. I’d auditioned 50-something kids and none of them were getting what it needed to be. My wife suggested throwing her in. She’d never acted before and it turned out to be such a great thing to do.”

Mr InBetween has already received positive reviews after it was chosen to be the only non-US series to be screened at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year. Originally commissioned by FX in Australia, it is now set to air on Foxtel’s Showcase channel later this year. It is produced by Blue-Tongue Films and Jungle Entertainment and sold internationally by Fox Networks Group Content Distribution.

“I never dreamed of doing TV until Scott presented the idea for this series, so I can’t say I’d never do it again,” Edgerton concludes. “I’d totally do another season with Scott. Ultimatel,y I love filmmaking and storytelling so it’s all about if it’s the right project and if it’s the right medium to do it. I still love making short films but, after Gringo, I want to make another movie.”

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