×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Brian Epstein Bio Series ‘Fifth Beatle’ to Hum With Lennon-McCartney Tunes

Bravo’s “The Fifth Beatle” will examine what it was like to be gay and Jewish in 1960s England through the prism of the life story of legendary Beatles manager Brian Epstein, who died in 1967 at age 32.

Production on the Sonar Entertainment series, based on the graphic novel by Vivek J. Tivary, is still months off and details as to where it will shoot are scant, but Jenna Santoianni, Sonar’s executive VP of television series and a “Fifth Beatle” executive producer, offered a glimpse at plans for the limited series. Sonar developed the property and set it up at Bravo last month.

“I think Vivek has done an amazing job in adapting his graphic novel to the television script,” Santoianni tells Variety. “And from the script, people are going to get the true life story of Brian Epstein and really feel that he was brilliant yet was a bit of a tortured dreamer and get the early look at Brian Epstein’s discovering the band in the Cavern Club in Liverpool and get a sense of how he both nurtured and protected them, and really guided their careers to worldwide success. We’re going to explore that he was a gay Jewish man in 1960s England, which wasn’t a popular thing to be at that time considering that homosexuality was a felony and that he’s an outsider who really struggled to overcome a lot of odds. And at the same time we’re seeing Brian Epstein overcome his own personal struggles, we’re seeing the Fab Four rise to fame really because of the potential he saw in them.”

The project is also notable for having secured rights to the music of John Lennon and Paul McCartney. Santoianni said she couldn’t reveal which songs would be used yet, though “they’re very related to the story and the music is going to be a very organic part of the storytelling. I think what Vivek said in securing those music rights is very special and those were not easy to get.”

Santoianni said television was a good fit for “Fifth Beatle” because it allows for a longer storytelling format. The interest in Epstein’s story is a sign of how much the market for television content has expanded.

“There are a lot of subject areas and formats that used to be considered not suitable for television or that you couldn’t make,” she said. “And part of that was that the budgets weren’t there. And the wealth of channels and programmers that we have today weren’t there. Programmers would say, ‘You couldn’t do period pieces. You couldn’t do things that had a ton of music involved or production numbers. Audiences wanted to see stories about America.”

But things have changed. “The beauty of television is that we don’t have to resolve our characters’ issues or stories in a two-hour movie,” she said. “We get to embrace our characters for their flaws and for their personalities and spend a lot of time with them. And we don’t have to say goodbye to them after two hours.”

The Epstein biopic series was a natural attraction for a longtime Beatles fan who says she was instilled with love of their music by her parents. “The Beatles mean a lot to me,” Santoianni said. “I grew up in Los Angeles listening on the weekends to (radio program) “Breakfast With the Beatles.”

She looks at the entire project as a real accomplishment. “To be able to help (Vivek) take the graphic novel and sell it as a television show is really special and meaningful,” Santoianni said. “It’s a great honor to be able to work with someone on adapting their own work. And it’s been a really great and charmed experience. This is one of the most beautiful graphic novels I’ve even seen.”

More Music

  • Mandy Moore

    Mandy Moore Opens Up About Her Marriage to Ryan Adams: ‘I Was So Sad’

    Mandy Moore opened up about her marriage to Ryan Adams on Monday’s episode of Marc Maron’s “WTF” podcast. While the interview was taped before the publication of the Feb. 13 New York Times report in which multiple women, including Moore, accuse Adams of sexual misconduct or emotionally abusive behavior, she speaks freely about the “unhealthy dynamic” in [...]

  • Queen + Adam Lambert perform at

    Queen to Perform at Oscars

    Queen will perform at the Academy Awards ceremony on Sunday, the Motion Picture Academy announced on social media today. The move, which is not completely a surprise, comes in the wake of the blockbuster success of “Bohemian Rhapsody,” the biopic about the band and its late singer, Freddie Mercury. The band now performs under the [...]

  • R. Kelly

    Grand Jury Reportedly Convened in R. Kelly Case

    UPDATED: A grand jury has been convened in Cook County, Illinois, in connection with new allegations against singer R. Kelly, CNN reports, citing two sources close to the case. The latest round of accusations against the singer — who has allegations of sexual misconduct against him dating back 25 years, although he has never been [...]

  • 21 Savage

    21 Savage Talks Possible Deportation, Grammys in New Interview

    After being arrested on Feb. 3 for a visa violation, Atlanta-based rapper 21 Savage — whom few people knew was actually a U.K. citizen — spent 10 highly publicized days in ICE detention before being released on Wednesday. The following day, the New York Times sat down with him for an interview in which the [...]

  • SAN FRANCISCO, CA - February 16

    San Francisco Symphony Ushers in Chinese New Year With Glitzy Gala

    As legend has it: among the Chinese Zodiac’s 12 animals, the pig comes last because it was the final one to arrive to a party thrown by the Jade Emperor — lazy sauntering being a characteristic trait of the animal. The folktale was perhaps less fitting this past Saturday evening, as the San Francisco Symphony [...]

  • 50 Cent Power

    NYPD Officer Under Investigation for Allegedly Telling Police to Shoot 50 Cent 'on Sight'

    A New York City precinct commander is under investigation for allegedly telling officers to shoot rapper 50 Cent on sight, a police rep confirmed to Variety on Sunday. “The matter is under internal review,” an NYPD rep said, declining to answer further questions. Deputy Inspector Emanuel Gonzalez is accused of telling officers during a June 7 roll [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content