Series in the Works

The Weeknd in Josh and Benny Safdie’s Uncut Gems (2019)

A few days after Uncut Gems premiered at the Telluride Film Festival in the fall of 2019, Variety’s Chris Willman asked directors Josh and Benny Safdie how they managed to get Abel Tesfaye to play himself, that is, the Weeknd. One of the hottest acts in music appears hosting a party in a nightclub and ends up scuffling with Adam Sandler’s Howard Ratner. “He’s a friend of ours, and he’s a real cinephile, Abel,” Josh Safdie told Willman. “Real cinephile.” Before the release of his new album, Tesfaye spoke to Mark Anthony Green for a GQ cover story. “Do you plan on writing and directing films one day?” asks Green. “Absolutely,” Tesfaye replies. “When the time is right. Cinema has always been my first passion.”

The time is evidently right for a series Tesfaye is developing with cocreators Sam Levinson (Euphoria) and Reza Fahim, showrunner Joseph Epstein, and cowriter and coproducer Mary Laws. The working title is The Idol, and Tesfaye will star, perhaps as the owner of a club in Los Angeles who leads a secret cult and strikes up a romance with a pop singer.

On Monday, we caught up with a round of features in the works, and today, we turn to forthcoming series. Way back in February 2020, we noted that Benny Safdie and Nathan Fielder had cowritten and planned to star in The Curse, a half-hour comedy about a freshly married couple who host a show on HGTV and are trying to conceive a child, but they keep running into one inexplicable problem after another. Emma Stone has signed on, and the series is still in development for Showtime. Now Fielder has created another half-hour comedy for HBO. He plans to write, direct, and star in The Rehearsal, in which he will give people opportunities to rehearse episodes from their own lives. According to Deadline’s Peter White, HBO “wouldn’t say whether it was scripted or more in the vein of Nathan for You.

Although Alice Rohrwacher (Happy as Lazzaro) has directed two episodes of the series adaptation of Elena Ferrante’s My Brilliant Friend, she hasn’t overseen a series of her own—until now. There Will Be a Time will explore the worlds conjured in Italian folktales. “For several years now, I’ve been collecting impressions of the world of the storytellers who populated the streets, squares, and festivals of Italy until the second half of the twentieth century,” Rohrwacher explains in a statement. “Film footage, photographs, storyboards, fliers with song lyrics, fortune cards: from all this material came the desire to create an anthology of their journeys and storytelling. On the one hand to explore the vast world of the Italian fairy tale, and on the other to re-experience life on the streets of Italy in the late 1950s.”

Andrew Haigh, who wrote and directed several episodes of Looking a few years ago, has also had the opportunity to oversee a new show: The North Water, a five-part limited series that premiered in the U.S. and UK a couple of weeks ago. Set in the 1850s and adapted from Ian McGuire’s 2016 novel, The North Water stars Colin Farrell as a whaler and Jack O’Connell as a ship’s surgeon. In the New York Times, Mike Hale finds that this “intelligent, beautifully filmed mini-series” has “strong family ties to the work of Joseph Conrad and Werner Herzog.”

Now Haigh is preparing to write and direct the pilot episode of a narrative series based on Sarah Schulman’s Let the Record Show: A Political History of ACT UP New York, 1987-1993. In the NYT, Rebecca Makkai calls the book “a masterpiece tome: part sociology, part oral history, part memoir, part call to arms.” As the showrunner, Haigh will be working alongside executive producers Schulman, Jonathan King, David Hinojosa, and Christine Vachon, who says that Killer Films, the vital production company she cofounded in 1995, “has been looking for a story that gets to the emotional heart of the AIDS crisis in NYC and Sarah Schulman’s brilliant and inspiring book does exactly that.”

Alan Taylor—who has directed episodes of The Sopranos, Game of Thrones, Boardwalk Empire, Deadwood, and Mad Men as well as the forthcoming Sopranos prequel film, The Many Saints of Newark—has signed on to direct the first two episodes of Interview with the Vampire, an adaptation of Anne Rice’s best-selling 1976 book. AMC has acquired all eighteen books in Rice’s Vampire Chronicles and Mayfair Witches series, and Mark Johnson (Breaking Bad, Better Call Saul) and showrunner Rolin Jones (Friday Night Lights) are currently developing the first season of eight episodes.

David Mackenzie (Hell or High Water) will direct Andrew Garfield and Daisy Edgar-Jones in Under the Banner of Heaven, a series loosely based on Jon Krakauer’s 2003 book about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the murder of a woman and her infant daughter committed by two fundamentalist Mormons. Dustin Lance Black, who won an Oscar for his screenplay for Gus Van Sant’s Milk (2008), is writing the series.

In the six-hour limited series The Monster of Florence, Antonio Banderas will play Mario Spezi, the real-life Italian crime reporter who cowrote the best-selling book with American fiction writer Douglas Preston. Between 1974 and 1985, seven couples making out in their cars in or near Florence were murdered. At one point in the investigation, Italian prosecutors began to suspect that Spezi and Preston were potential accomplices to the killings. Nikolaj Arcel (A Royal Affair) has cowritten the screenplay with Anders Thomas Jensen and will direct The Monster of Florence for Studiocanal.


Back in April, we noted that Park Chan-wook was developing a series adaptation of Viet Thanh Nguyen’s 2015 Pulitzer Prize–winning debut novel, The Sympathizer, for A24 and HBO. Now Robert Downey Jr. has signed up for a role—but not the lead. The story centers on a nameless narrator raised in the U.S. by his Vietnamese mother and French father. During the Vietnam War, he spies for the North while working for the South’s secret police. In 2016, Randy Boyagoda wrote in the Guardian that The Sympathizer “can be read as a spy novel, a war novel, an immigrant novel, a novel of ideas, a political novel, a campus novel, a novel about the movies, and a novel, yes, about other novels.” The book is “a bold, artful, and globally minded reimagining of the Vietnam War and its interwoven private and public legacies.”

Adria Arjona, Carrie Brownstein, Jerrod Carmichael, Fala Chen, and Devon Ross are joining Alicia Vikander in the cast of Olivier Assayas’s remake of his 1996 feature, Irma Vep. Instead of Maggie Cheung as Maggie Cheung, the series will center on Vikander’s Mira, an American star who arrives in France to take on the lead role in a remake of Louis Feuillade’s Les Vampires (1915–16), one of cinema’s earliest and most successful serial narratives.

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