The Mediapro Studio is teaming with “Department of Time” and “Isabel” creator Javier Olivares to develop a new bio-series about former Spanish King Juan Carlos I in the style of Netflix’s “The Crown,” according to a report by Spanish paper El País and confirmed to Variety by The Mediapro Studio. No channel or platform is attached at this time.
A local authority on adapting historical, or at least history-based, content for film and TV, Olivares has already plotted out a three-season arc for his latest project, “El Rey,” featuring parallel biographies of Juan Carlos I and of Spain as a whole during the time of the king’s reign.
The idea behind “El Rey” has been on Olivares’ back burner for years, but the heat turned up with the publication of Catalan journalist Pilar Eyre’s novel “Yo, el Rey,” (I, the King) last year. Inspired by the book, Olivares and Javier Pons, The Mediapro Studio head of TV, took the decision to broaden the original bio-series idea and develop it as a three-act drama of 10-12 episodes per season, mirroring the King’s often-challenging ascension to acceptance, a period of immense popularity and the eventual sad decline into exile.
As is the case with its British Netflix predecessor, “El Rey,” or “The King” in English, is a story without a definite end as its main protagonist is still alive, although Juan Carlos is no longer the King of Spain, having abdicated the throne to his son in 2014.
For much of time as monarch, Juan Carlos was a popular figure in the country and remains much loved by many. His role in the changeover from Franco’s fascist dictatorship to a democratic system of governance was a welcome surprise, as many assumed he would take Franco’s place after the dictator’s death.
However, the later years of Juan Carlos’ reign were marred by scandal, and today the former Spanish monarch lives in self-exile, accused of shady business tactics in Saudi Arabia intended to grow his personal wealth.
According to Olivares, another departure from “The Crown” is the often-farcical nature of Juan Carlos the character. In fact, Olivares teased that the series will have realistic, political comedic elements like those in the works of legendary Spanish cineaste Luis García Berlanga. One example, he suggested, is the fact that when Juan Carlos married Queen Sofia, he did so with a broken arm and clavicle because his future brother-in-law, a studied martial artist, had recently beaten him up.
“When The Mediapro Studio was born three years ago, it did so with the intention of – in addition to developing proposals that come from the networks – finding its own projects, promoted and developed by ourselves from the beginning,” Pons told El País.
Long one of Spain’s best-known TV creators and showrunners, Olivares inked a development deal with The Mediapro Studio’s main TV production company Globomedia in 2018. Before that, he was showrunner on RTVE’s La 1 TV drama “Isabel,” one of the biggest Spanish fiction hits in recent times in terms of both local TV audiences and international sales. His biggest series, however, remains “Department of Time,” co-created with his late brother Pablo. The cult sci-fi hit was also produced for RTVE and boarded by Netflix in its third season.