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Roberto Ricci Raises the Mask on ‘Red Harlequin’

TV adaptation of Italian YA fantasy series heads to Rome’s MIA market

The Red Harlequin,” the best-selling Italian young adult fantasy series, is leaping from the page to the screen, with series creator Roberto Ricci planning a TV adaptation as he begins to develop the IP across platforms.

Ricci’s Pantomimus Media presented the story bible and pilot script at Mipcom and will now do the same at Rome’s MIA market, where it has been selected for the drama series pitching competition.

“The Red Harlequin” is a YA fantasy series set in an ancient world where superstitions abound and everyone lives behind masks. The inhabitants, or Chromes, are divided by colors and constantly at war with each other, while living in fear of the terrifying creatures known as Harlequins.

“The world of ‘Red Harlequin’ is divided into six nations, each closed in in its own beliefs, each believing that they’re better than the other,” said Ricci, drawing parallels between his fantasy creation and the current political climate. “The nations have been divided in colors to control people [but] the colors are a lie.”

Those lies are finally exposed when the series’ young hero, Asheva, is forced to leave his native land. Ricci said the character was inspired by youth-driven protest movements like Occupy Wall Street and the Arab Spring, which took an uncompromising stance against the status quo and said, “Enough of this hypocrisy, enough of these lies.”

Industry veteran Robert Butler has been tapped as showrunner and co-creator for the series, bringing along his years of TV experience. Butler is the co-creator and executive producer of the Netflix Original “Creeped Out,” a 26-episode sci-fi horror anthology series.

Ricci is now looking to find two more “cornerstone partners” to join Finnish media fund IPR, which has been financing the series’ development, in order to further develop the series as well as other projects around the “Red Harlequin” IP.

The first season is being pitched as a 12-episode one-hour drama, with an international cast and an estimated budget of $25 million, but Ricci sees boundless potential as “Red Harlequin” expands across media.

“From the very inception this was a very visual project,” said Ricci, who’s authored five books and one graphic novel set in the “Red Harlequin” universe. “Because of this, we immediately started thinking about potentially developing it into a graphic novel, a series, because it lent itself so easily to those media.”

He added, “Once you have a story, you can narrate it in different channels. Different channels potentially have different audiences.”

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