Starz is looking to boost its profile with Latino viewers. The premium cabler has set three development prospects revolving around Hispanic themes and creative auspices that include Televisa USA and “The Blair Witch Project’s” Haxan Films.
The focus on Hispanic audiences comes after Starz has found broad success with shows rooted in African-American experiences, including the drama “Power,” which ranks as Starz’s most-watched original series, and comedy “Survivor’s Remorse.”
Starz CEO Chris Albrecht has been vocal about the void in premium cable programming featuring diverse casts and creative teams. The Hispanic initiative was unveiled Friday morning during Starz’s presentation at the Television Critics Association’s winter press tour in Pasadena, Calif.
Starz has teamed with Televisa USA, an offshoot of Mexican media giant Grupo Televisa, to develop an English-language rendition of telenovela “El Malefico,” about a powerful businessman who makes a pact with the devil. The sudser ran for 320 episodes in Mexico in 1983-84.
Mauricio Katz will serve as showrunner and co-write the first episode of the drama with Chilean director Pedro Peirano. Katz is a prolific TV writer and producer who co-created the drama “Nino Santo,” which was recently developed for the U.S. at A&E Network. He also worked on FX’s “The Bridge.”
“Starz’s stamp of quality together with Mauricio and Pedro’s tremendous vision and intimate knowledge of the format will ensure an impactful return of this iconic series,” said Chris Philip, head of production and distribution for Televisa USA.
Haxan Films’ Eduardo Sanchez has teamed with Cuban writer-director Alejandro Brugues for the supernatural drama “Santeria,” revolving around undercover agents investigating a strange murder against the backdrop of the Cuban faith tradition of Santeria. Brugues is known for his comedy “Juan of the Dead.” Sanchez and Brugues are exec producers with Haxan’s Gregg Hale.
“Pour Vida” is based on a short story by Richard Villegas Jr. that follows twin sisters who inherit a building in East L.A. They attempt to open a wine bar in a gentrification effort but wind up adopting their neighborhood as their own. Marc Turtletaub, Dan Pasternack and Erin Keating are exec producers of the half-hour dramedy.
“Marc Turtletaub, Dan Pasternack and Erin Keating, along with our partners at Big Beach TV, brought to us a story that has yet to be told on television,” said Carmi Zlotnik, managing director of Starz. “There is heart and humor in capturing the first-generation experience.”
Starz already has been developing an adaptation of the Havana-set detective novels by Cuban writer Leonardo Padura. Albrecht said he feels the Hispanic audience is one that Starz can draw “if we lean in to them a little bit and show them that Starz has them on their minds.”
Starz hopes to shoot the “Havana Quartet” series in Cuba, although the feasibility of doing so may depend on “who’s going to be the next president of the United States.”
The most important thing is to find “genuine” fresh voices to deliver distinctive material, although that’s challenging because those creators don’t have the depth of experience needed to run a TV series. Marriages of young writers with seasoned showrunners can be tricky, which is why Starz focused on working with established source material and production entities with track records in the arena.
“I think the biggest obstacle to more diversity in programming is that there aren’t the diverse voices that are allowed to put forth their work,” Albrecht said.
In other tidbits from the session:
- “American Gods,” the anticipated adaptation of the Neil Gaiman novel from Bryan Fuller and Michael Green, is expected to begin production later this year in Toronto.
- Starz is in discussions with producer Chris Moore for another season of filmmaking reality series “The Chair” but with a different concept.
- The first script for “Ash vs. Evil Dead’s” second season is in and looking good. “The second season is so important for a series,” Albretch said.