EXCLUSIVE: Lost alum Naveen Andrews, Daryl Hannah and Stargate Universe‘s Brian J. Smith are among the 14-member international cast of Sense8, Netflix‘s 10-episode sci-fi drama series from the Wachowskis and J. Michael Straczynski. Also cast in the show, expected to debut next year, are British actors Tuppence Middleton, who appears in Wachowskis’ upcoming film Jupiter Ascending; British actors Aml Ameen (The Maze Runner, Lee Daniels’ The Butler) and Freema Agyeman (Doctor Who, Torchwood), Indian actress Tena Desae, South Korean actress Doona Bae, German actor Max Riemelt, Mexican actors Alfonso Herrera and Erendira Ibarra as well as Jamie Clayton, Miguel Silvestre and Terrence Mann. Up until now, Netflix and the creators had not revealed details about the project beyond calling it “a gripping global tale of minds linked and souls hunted” that incorporates the Wachowskis’ storytelling style. Here is the first detailed description of Sense8, courtesy of Straczynski, who serves as co-showrunner of the series alongside Lana and Andy Wachowski. “The series follows eight characters around the world who, in the aftermath of a tragic death, find themselves linked to each other mentally and emotionally,” he told Deadline.
Rosario Dawson (Cesar Chavez, Kids) is set to guest star in Marvel’s Daredevil, Netflix’s 13-episode series slated to premiere in 2015. Dawson joins previously cast Charlie Cox and Vincent D’Onofrio in the series written and executive produced by Drew Goddard, with Steven S. DeKnight also serving as exec producer/showrunner.. It follows the journey of Matt Murdock (Cox), who was blinded as a young boy but imbued with extraordinary senses, now fighting against injustice by day as a lawyer, and by night as the super hero Daredevil in modern day Hell’s Kitchen, New York City. Dawson will play a dedicated young woman whose quest to heal the wounds of Hell’s Kitchen brings Matt Murdock unexpectedly crashing into her life, while her own journey forever alters the course of his battle against the injustices of this broken city. Marvel’s Daredevil is produced by Marvel Television in association with ABC Studios for Netflix. Dawson can be seen in upcoming feature Sin City: A Dame To Kill For.
EMMYS Q&A: Ricky Gervais On Netflix Underdog ‘Derek’: “I Don’t Care About The People Who Don’t ‘Get’ It”
Ricky Gervais nabbed an acting Emmy for Extras and won another for producing the long-running comedy series The Office. Now he’s hoping to catch voters’ eyes and hearts with Derek, the nuanced and bittersweet series that stars Gervais as a naive caretaker in nursing home whose optimism buoys the spirits of the elderly residents and fellow workers around him. Or not. The melancholic dramedy falls outside the comedian’s more mainstream hits and has drawn mixed reviews, although Gervais says it’s the selective viewer and not a broad audience that he was hoping to capture with Derek. The show’s second season is vying in the Comedy category after debuting on Netflix in May (Season 1 was ineligible for Emmys consideration last year). As Gervais tells Deadline, this will likely be the last full season viewers see of Derek Noakes, who may appear in his own special once Gervais’ Office alter ego David Brent gets his own spin-off film.
DEADLINE: The second season of Derek is competing in the Comedy category, but it’s really more bittersweet and deeply emotional than most comedies.
RICKY GERVAIS: Well, it’s nice to try and evoke any emotion. I’ve never thought comedy just had to be knee-jerk laughs every 30 seconds, you know? But I think that’s probably why it’s slightly different than most sitcoms – it’s slightly more sincere. I think comedy, in general, is a much more intellectual pursuit as opposed to an emotional one and possibly drama is probably more emotional. But they’re all branches of the same tree. It’s a workout for your emotions. That’s what fiction is: it’s role-play for the soul.
DEADLINE: The idea that shows or content or art has to be one or the other, comedy or drama, is rather reductive and only comes up during awards season, doesn’t it?
GERVAIS: Yes, it does. “What category is it in?” and that. But some people need to pigeonhole so they can sit down and enjoy it. It’s very strange. And it’s funny. I’ve had it with everything I’ve ever done. People decide what it is and then they complain that it’s not what they said it would be. It’s the same with when people try to retell a joke. They say the joke that I told, totally different, and then they say, “Isn’t that horrendous?” And I want to say, “Yes, that is horrendous. That’s not the joke I told. You at least have to say the joke I told to criticize me for it. You at least have to get every single word and comma and pacing and nuance before you can criticize it. Because in a joke, everything matters. It’s a piece of poetry, a good joke, and everything counts. So you can’t miss out a bit. You just can’t. You’re not allowed.”
Peter Bart is contributor to Awardsline and Deadline
Not one to slow down, Jane Fonda has written a New York Times bestseller, Being a Teen; has signed on to costar with Lily Tomlin in Grace & Frankie for Netflix; and just finished shooting the feature film Fathers and Daughters with Russell Crowe. She’s also a prolific blogger at JaneFonda.com. But perhaps most exciting is her return as Leona Lansing in the third and final installment of HBO’s The Newsroom, for which she performed a mesmerizing monologue last season that fans hailed was not so much Emmy- as Oscar-worthy.
AWARDSLINE: You had a scene at the end of the second season of The Newsroom that I felt was really vintage Jane. Was that speech totally scripted or did you embellish it?
JANE FONDA: Oh, you don’t embellish with Aaron (Sorkin, the show’s creator); there’s no improvising. That was the first thing that (costar) Jeff Daniels said to me when I came to the first table read of the first season. He said, “Know every line backwards and forwards, every comma, every period, awake and in your sleep.”
Chelsea Handler has lined up her next TV gig and it is the one she’d wanted all along — a talk show on Netflix. After months of negotiations and speculation, the streaming service has announced a deal with the comedian that includes a talk show, to launch in early 2016, as well as stand-up special and four docu-comedy specials.
Like her E! late-night show, which will end its seven-tear run on August 26, the Netflix talker will feature Handler’s unfiltered opinions on topics of the day as well as guest interviews. It has not been determined yet what frequency the show will be released with — daily, weekly or in between — with Netflix only noting that it will debut simultaneously in all Netflix territories. “The Internet has disrupted many of the conventions of traditional television and together with Chelsea Handler, Netflix is looking forward to reimagining the late night talk show for the on-demand generation, starting with the late-night part….” said Netflix Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos. That means that Netflix’s model of delivering content on demand and not tied to a time period has rendered the late-night label for Handler’s talk show obsolete.
In Handler’s now infamous Howard Stern Show radio interview in March, in which she called E! “a sad, sad place to live” and “a failure,” Handler suggested that after she leaves the cable network she would be interested in going to an outlet like …
As far as Jay Carson knows, none of the 435 representatives and 100 senators who make up the United States Congress has resorted to murdering reporters. “But then, there are so many of them,” he jokes. Still, with 15 years in politics under his belt, including his current stint as senior adviser to Bloomberg Philanthropies, the consultant on Netflix’s House of Cards understands why lawmakers have fallen in love with Kevin Spacey’s murderous Machiavellian despot Frank Underwood. “Frank’s ability to get things done, even if some of his actions aren’t so legal, might actually be a nice antidote to the gridlocked Washington we have right now,” Carson insists. “He’s a man of action, as (showrunner) Beau (Willimon) says. He runs up against a wall and he’s not thinking, ‘Oh well.’ He’s thinking, ‘OK, I can go under it, over it or knock it right down.’ ”
Carson and Willimon met while in college at Columbia University. The seeds that became House of Cards were planted when Carson started interning for Chuck Schumer’s successful Senate campaign. “No one thought he would win,” says Carson, who brought Willimon onboard. “We became this inseparable duo. You can see from House of Cards how important it is to have someone around you can trust.”
Pinewood Studios is today confirming its ambitious offshore strategy with the official launch of Pinewood Iskandar Malaysia Studios. Already open for a handful of months, the studio is currently hosting The Weinstein Co. and Netflix series Marco Polo. Pinewood CEO Ivan Dunleavy tells me, “You have a UK studio in Malaysia with Weinstein the production company and Netflix the distribution platform – I think that says it all about the new world.”
Along with Malaysia, the Pinewood family now includes the flagship South Buckinghamshire location, nearby Shepperton Studios, and outlets in the Dominican Republic, Toronto, Berlin and Atlanta — where Marvel’s Ant Man is colonizing. The group is also advising Wanda Dalian on a new film and TV studio complex, Qingdao Oriental Movie Metropolis, which is expected to open in 2016.
Netflix and Scholastic Media are teaming to launch a new CG animated original series based on the 1990s’ PBS kids TV series The Magic School Bus. The Magic School Bus 360° will target school-aged children as did the PBS series, which focused on science and technology lessons and was based on the book series by Joanna Cole and Bruce Degan. It won a Daytime Emmy in 1995 for Lily Tomlin, who voiced the bus driver Ms. Frizzle. Netflix has ordered 26 episodes of the reimagined series to launch on in 2016, with original executive producer and Scholastic president Deborah Forte returning to produce. “Scholastic Media is a powerhouse creator and producer of top-quality programming for kids and families and its flagship series like The Magic School Bus, Clifford The Big Red Dog and Goosebumps have been huge hits on Netflix in all our territories,” said Ted Sarandos, Chief Content Officer of Netflix. “We’re thrilled to expand our relationships and to be the first-run home of The Magic School Bus 360°, introducing a whole new generation to Ms. Frizzle and her high jinks.”
Marvel is adding some serious acting chops to its 13-episode Netflix series Daredevil. Law & Order: Criminal Intent alum Vincent D’Onofrio will co-star opposite Charlie Cox in the series, set to premiere in 2015, Marvel announced today. (It is unclear why the company chose a mugshot-style photo of D’Onofrio, right, to accompany its announcement). D’Onofrio will play Wilson Fisk (known as supervillain The Kingpin in the Marvel Comics universe), a powerful businessman whose interests in the future of Hell’s Kitchen will bring him into conflict with the blind attorney Matt Murdock (Cox) and his alter ego Daredevil. In the 2003 movie starring Ben Affleck, the role of Fisk/Kingpin was played by Michael Clarke Duncan. The Daredevil series was written by executive producer Drew Goddard, with Steven S. DeKnight recently hired as executive producer/showrunner. Daredevil is the first of four 13-episode superhero series set in the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood of New York City, which Marvel is producing for Netflix. It will be followed by Jessica Jones, Iron Fist and Luke Cage, with the characters from each show then coming together for an Avengers-type superhero teaming in a chapter-closing miniseries.
Here’s the latest indication that it’s difficult to interest investors in corporate democracy as long as the stock price keeps rising. Following a 12-month period when Netflix shares appreciated 92%, its shareholders today defeated several proposals at their annual meeting that would have given them more leverage to check CEO Reed Hastings‘ clout at the streaming video company. The most hotly contested one, from New York City’s pension funds, called for an independent chairman — essentially requiring Hastings to give up half of his dual role. It passed last year, but failed this time with 47% support. Supporters including proxy advisory firms Institutional Shareholder Services and Glass, Lewis say the chairman is supposed to help the board assess the CEO’s performance, making it a conflict of interests when one person holds both jobs. Netflix said in its proxy that it makes sense for Hastings to be chairman “because he is the director most familiar with the Company’s business and industry and is therefore best able to identify the strategic priorities to be discussed by the Board.”
EXCLUSIVE: Everyone likes to joke about cops, coffee and donuts, but today Fox comedy Brooklyn Nine-Nine is literally taking the beverage and treats on the road in the City of Angels for its Emmy campaign. Set to coincide with the mailing out of ballots, the Golden Globe winning show will be out and about starting this morning with a specially wrapped food truck offering coffee, donuts and bagels to not only TV Academy members but also to members of the non-voting public. With cast member Joe Lo Truglio aboard and in service first thing today, the truck will make stops in downtown L.A., Mid-Wilshire, Century City’s Farmer’s Market, Beverly Hills and West LA throughout the day, I’ve learned. Other cast members are expected to join the truck over its run around the city until June 13. Fox’s marketing and PR team also plan to use the truck as a social media hotspot by encouraging recipients of the free coffee and treats to get their photos taken with the truck and cast members and post online.
PGA Digital Visionaries: Netflix, AwesomenessTV, GTA V, Batkid, ‘Veronica Mars,’ Alfonso Cuaron, More
The Producers Guild of America handed out its Digital Visionaries awards Friday night, recognizing nine notable organizations and the people behind them for using technology to advance the ways stories are told. “These are the top Hollywood people who are ultra-forward thinking in their vision of telling stories,” said Marc Scarpa, co-chair with Shawn Gold of the committee selecting the award winners. “We’re about pushing the medium forward.” Producer/Writer/Director Marshall Herskovitz (ThirtySomething, The Last Samurai and a prominent PGA member) handed out the night’s awards with short comments about each:
- The people behind the elaborate, and endlessly charming, confabulation that turned the city of San Francisco into a giant superhero playground for one ailing child dressed as “BatKid.” This award went to Patricia Wilson, Executive Director of Make-A-Wish Foundation, San Francisco Mayor Edwin Lee and the city’s residents.
- Netflix, for its swath of original programming. Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos said the company’s event Thursday evening featuring notable women actor/directors who are part of its shows House of Cards and Orange is the New Black, as well as the Oscar-nominated documentary The Square, “show you where we’re going, particularly for the directors on that stage (Jodie Foster, Robin Wright, Jehane Noujaim). We get to really broaden the spectrum (of programming options and voices).” As for innovation on the technical side,
EXCLUSIVE: Hot off of his role on HBO’s Game Of Thrones, Pedro Pascal has been set to star opposite Wagner Moura on Netflix‘s drama series Narcos. Written by Chris Brancato and directed by Jose Padilha, Narcos is the true-life story of the growth and spread of cocaine drug cartels across the globe and attendant efforts of law enforcement to meet them head on in brutal, bloody conflict. It centers on notorious Colombian cocaine kingpin Pablo Escobar (Moura) and Javier Pena (Pascal), a Mexican DEA agent sent to Colombia on a U.S. mission to capture and ultimately kill him. Produced by Gaumont and executive produced by Padilha and Eric Newman, Narcos will premiere on Netflix in 2015. Pascal, repped by Innovative and Untitled, just wrapped a major recurring role on HBO’s blockbuster fantasy series Game Of Thrones and also recently recurred on USA’s Graceland and CBS’ The Mentalist.
There’s encouraging and discouraging news for just about everybody in the TV ecosystem from Leichtman Research Group’s latest study of emerging video services. The survey of 1,211 households shows that nearly half (49%) have a Web-connected TV, up from 44% last year and 38% in 2012. And people are using the capability. Some 24% of adults watch an Internet-delivered video on their TV at least once a week, up from 17% in 2013 and 13% two years ago. The changes were “spurred by Netflix’s decision in the third quarter of 2011 to focus on streaming video, coupled with the proliferation of connected TV devices, smartphones, and iPads and tablets,” says principal analyst Bruce Leichtman.
That’s a problem for pay TV companies. Netflix’ popularity is growing among non-subscribers — including cord cutters. About half (48%) of people who don’t pay for cable or satellite TV do take Netflix, a leap from 29% in 2012. On the flip side, the percentage of Netflix subs who also buy cable or satellite service fell to 80% from 85% in 2012 and 88% in 2010.
Yet the data also point to potential challenges for Netflix. About 80% of its 35M domestic streaming users watch on a connected TV set — a percentage that has held steady for years. That’s fine as long as there’s been growth in the number of homes with smart TVs, or with sets connected via dedicated streaming devices …
Were any doubt to remain, let it be clear: Netflix is doing its level best to make the Emmy season as big as the Oscars, with glitzy events showcasing its biggest stars to would-be voters. Case in point: Thursday night’s showcase at the TV Academy of five women from three of its most prominent programs, including Oscar winner Jodie Foster, Golden Globe winner Robin Wright, Golden Globe nominees Taylor Schilling and Kate Mulgrew and Jehane Noujaim, director of an Oscar-nominated documentary.
The first four are either actors, directors or both on Netflix series House Of Cards and Orange is the New Black, while Noujaim directed The Square, the 2013 documentary about the Egyptian democracy uprising that Netflix distributed on VOD and video in the U.S. As is typical in such gatherings with a loose theme — in this case the theme appeared be Totally Rocking Actor-Director Humans Who Are Also Women And Also Doing Great Stuff For Netflix — there wasn’t much of a narrative through-line in the conversation, but there were lots of great bits, as you might expect from a group of such smart and accomplished people doing great stuff with great shows. Herewith are some of the highlights from a thoroughly engaging evening:
When writer-producer Beau Willimon adapted the black-as-pitch British miniseries House of Cards for a ground-breaking deal with Netflix, he introduced U.S. audiences to the anti-hero power couple Francis and Claire Underwood (Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright), both so bent on rising to the top of Washington power circles that their ambitions trump their morals. By the end of season two, they had reached their goal, moving into the White House. Willimon first explored political cynicism and boundless ambition with the play Farragut North, which became the 2011 film Ides of March with George Clooney. Now, heading into a third season of an award-winning blockbuster, Willimon explains how Frank Underwood is actually as optimistic a politician as they come.
DEADLINE: Early on you worked on Chuck Schumer’s campaign, and then with Hillary Clinton, Bill Bradley and Howard Dean. In your adaptations, politicians just seem like such awful people. What the heck did you see that informed such a cynical view of politics?
BEAU WILLIMON: Well, I don’t have a cynical view of politics. I don’t see Francis Underwood as being cynical at all. He doesn’t have an ideology. He’s not driven by idealism, but he is an optimist at heart. He says, “Forward progress, momentum. Do something instead of nothing.” That’s an optimistic point of view. Admittedly, both Ides of March and House of Cards are a dark take on the political process, but the subject isn’t politics, it’s power. So, there are no politicians that I worked for that, in any way, are parallel to Francis Underwood. Now, the more you become acquainted with the political world, you see people who are constantly faced with ethical choices, who wield a great deal of power, and with that power, comes a huge amount of responsibility, and you’re more often than not in that gray area instead of a black-and-white dialectic. I like to amplify the grayness. I like to really dig into those forks in the road, those moments where someone becomes a monster or plays into the darker side of power. But that’s not meant to be reflective of the entire political process.
Is your company facing an existential threat from a looming technology shift? If so, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings has some suggestions, like don’t forget about the customers you already have while figuring out how to attract new ones. Speaking today at the Code Conference in Rancho Palos Verdes, CA, Hastings said Netflix was too concerned with the wrong issues when it spun off its DVD-by-mail business in 2011 to focus on online movie delivery. “In hindsight, we were so focused on not dying with DVD,” he said. “We looked at all these businesses [with collapsing business models] like Kodak and Blockbuster. It was really a hard problem.”
Netflix created a new unit called Qwikster for the DVD-by-mail business, while keeping online delivery under the Netflix name. People who still wanted both physical discs and streaming options had to set up a separate account for each. “It turned out it didn’t work out at all,” Hastings said. “We mispredicted a number of factors.” Like charging more to have both accounts. “It turned out that approach really annoyed customers,” the exec said. “We learned an important lesson: The fact that your company may not be strategically positioned for the next 10 years, [customers] don’t care about that.”