After breaking ground in France, Franck Gastambide’s hit Canal Plus show “All the Way Up” (“Validé”), a comedy drama series unfolding on France’s vibrant rap scene, is set to roll out around the world. Canneseries opened Friday with season two of the show.
HBO Max, which recently launched in 39 territories in Latin America and the Caribbean, will premiere season one of the half-hour series. Radio-Canada’s OTT platform ICI TOU.TV EXTRA has acquired both the first and second seasons.
The show marked the TV debut of Gastambide, one of France’s most successful directors who previously delivered top-grossing local comedies such as “Porn in the Hood” (“Les Kaira”), “Pattaya” and the latest instalment of the action franchise “Taxi 5.” And like everything Gastambide is doing, the series has gone viral, breaking records on Canal Plus’ digital platforms with more than 35 million streams to date.
With “All The Way Up,” Gastambide ventured into a genre that had never been explored on French TV. It’s the first series set in the world of French rap and is headlined by newcomers who have become famous artists thanks to the show, Hatik – who took the lead role in season one – has become a rap sensation since the series began. Music from the series has attracted more than 4 million views of the clip on YouTube.
“Powerful and energtic series, ‘All The Way Up’ is a real phenomenon, beating all streaming ratings records on Canal Plus and, at the same time, on the main music streaming services,” said Beatriz Campos, SVP of global sales and production financing at Studiocanal. Campos added that the company is “extremely pleased to see this dynamic and universal comedy drama heading to HBO Max for its Latin American audiences and to Radio Canada where we are sure it will be a huge success.”
In the first season, Atik plays Clément, aka Apash, a talented young rapper with his two childhood friends by his side. One day he is recognized for his skills by one of France’s biggest rap stars. But their alliance quickly morphs into a dangerous rivalry. On the cust of fame the boys are about to find out, that in rap, success comes with strings attached.
The second season begins a year after Apash’s tragic death, his friends William and Brahim decide to launch Apash Music in honor of his memory. They place all their hopes on Sara, a young female rapper. But the male-dominated rap industry is reluctant to accept her and the media exposure brings old enemies from Sara’s past back to the surface.
Speaking to Variety, Gastambide said the show’s big inspiration is “Entourage.” ‘I used to watch ‘Entourage’ and it made me dream, I wanted to be their friend, be in Hollywood with them and bump into Jessica Alba at Starbucks,” quipped Gastambide. “And I told myself, I want to do this for the rap scene, with real people, real places, and what’s great is that the French rap scene has something more than Hollywood is that there’s sometimes a criminal aspect, so that was the perfect playground to mix the glitz and glam with the universe of ‘Gomorra’ with epic reckoning moments.”
“I knew we could create an exciting and entertaining series in which I could put all the ingredients to make the series that ‘All The Way Up’ has become: It’s a world that weaves together the star system, showbiz, glitz — and we now know that a rap musician can fill the Stade de France so we’re talking mainstream appeal,” said Gastambide, who also stars in the series.
The series feels authentic because the rap scene is a world Gastambide is familiar with. “It’s also the music I’ve listened to my whole life. I knew that with this show I could address an audience that’s really talked to,” said the actor-filmmaker.
“I was aware that we could do something special because Americans are doing amazing series about rap like ‘Atlanta’ and we didn’t have any in France, even though rap is the most popular music in France and the emergence of French hip hop music is huge, they even have their own media, Skyrock,” Gastambide pointed out.
“All that gave me the ambition to make the first French series set in the world of rap, but that was the starting point and it wasn’t easy to convince people on both sides, both the rap scene and Canal Plus,” added Gastambide, who acknowledged the key role that Canal Plus Group’s boss Maxime Saada played in supporting the series from its inception.
Season two’s cast includes Laëtitia Kerfa, Saïdou Camara, Brahim Bouhlel, Franck Gastambide, Sabrina Ouazani, Moussa Mansaly, Bosh, Hakim Jemili, Fatou Kaba, Rachid Guellaz, Dimitri Storoge, Youssef Hajdi, with the participation of Saïd Taghmaoui.
For the show, Gastambide reteamed with veteran producers Eric and Nicolas Altmayer at Mandarin who produced all his films and are also the producers of Francois Ozon and Anne Fontaine. “All The Way Up” is a Mandarin Télévision production, in co-production with Canal Plus and Autodidakte for Canal Plus Creation Originale, created by Gastambide, Charles Van Tieghem, Xavier Lacaille and Giulio Callegari.
Gastambide said working with the Altmayer brothers has been invaluable because they come from a different world and have another perspective, as they work with a wide-ranging mix of directors. “They’re very talented producers who have believed in me from the start and have this capacity to produce films like ‘Les Kaira’ or “Pattaya’ at the same time as ‘La Conquete’ (Anne Fontaine’s satirical film on Nicolas Sarkozy’s presidential race), or films by Francois Ozon (‘By The Grace of God’).”
“All The Way Up” is only starting its international career and Gastambide says discussions are ongoing for remakes in the U.K. and the U.S. via Universal Music Group, a sister company to Canal Plus Group that’s still owned by Vivendi.