Netflix Sets Opioid Crisis Series From ‘Narcos” Eric Newman, Peter Berg to Direct

Peter Berg
Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP/Shutterstock

Netflix has ordered an eight-episode limited series on the origins of the opioid crisis titled “Painkiller,” Variety has learned.

Micah Fitzerman-Blue and Noah Harpster will write and serve as showrunners and executive producers on the series. The pair recently wrote the screenplay for the Oscar-nominated film “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” and previously collaborated on the Emmy-winning Amazon series “Transparent.”

“Narcos: Mexico” showrunner Eric Newman will executive produce under his overall deal with Netflix. Peter Berg is attached to direct all eight episodes of the series.

Academy Award- and Emmy Award-winner Alex Gibney will also executive produce. Patrick Radden Keefe and Barry Meier will both serve as consultants. Keefe wrote the New Yorker piece “The Family That Built An Empire of Pain,” while Meier penned the book “Pain Killer: An Empire of Deceit and the Origin of America’s Opioid Epidemic.”

“A tragedy decades in the making, the opioid crisis has become one of the most devastating public health crises of our time. Unlike other drug epidemics, born from underground manufacturing and covert smuggling, this epidemic began by prescription–dispensed by doctors, approved by government regulators, and promoted by a family-owned pharmaceutical giant that made billions while betraying the trust of patients and the public,” Newman said. “I’m grateful to Micah & Noah, and Alex for bringing this story to me. Noah and Micah’s narrative of how it happened, based on the spectacular reporting of Patrick Radden Keefe and Barry Meier, is heartbreaking and terrifying. I’m honored to be working with the great Alex Gibney and I’m thrilled that Peter Berg is coming on to direct it.”

The show will mark the first time Berg has directed all of a television series. His past TV directing credits include episodes of shows like “The Leftovers” and “Ballers,” both of which saw him direct the shows’ pilot episodes. He also developed his 2004 film “Friday Night Lights” into an Emmy-winning TV series that aired for five seasons on NBC. On the feature side, he is known for directing films like “Lone Survivor,” “Deepwater Horizon,” “Patriots Day,” and “Hancock.”

“I am really charged to be a part of such an in depth exploration of the genesis of the opioid travesty,” Berg said. “Companies that profit off of death and addiction are fair game to me when it comes to illuminating the realities of how they go about their business.”

The opioid crisis in America has become a massive public health concern in recent years, with widespread over-prescribing of drugs like fentanyl, Vicodin, and OxyContin leading to massive problems with addiction and overdose deaths.

“Eric Newman has masterfully chronicled the drug trade for years and now I’m excited to see him join forces with the incredible Alex Gibney, Micah Fitzerman-Blue and Noah Harpster to take a more expansive view of the opioid epidemic,” said Cindy Holland, vice president of content at Netflix. “Combined with the directing of Peter Berg, “Painkiller” promises to be a powerful look behind the headlines of a tragedy happening in real time.”

(Pictured: Peter Berg)