Very few The Mediapro Studio shows, indeed very few Spanish series in general, have lit a fire on the open market like “The Head,” an Antarctic-set thriller which lifts off as a murder mystery to constantly evolve into other realms.
Starring Álvaro Morte, “Money Heist’s” Professor and Japanese pop idol Tomohisa Yamashita, written by Alex and David Pastor (“Hogar,” “Carriers”) and directed by Jorge Dorado (“The Department of Time,” “The Pier”), “The Head” broke viewership records on co-financiers Hulu Japan and HBO Asia and sold to over 90 countries including HBO in the U.S.
The Mediapro Studio retained IP. “Sales opened doors to new markets and clients with whom we hadn’t worked before,” said Laura Fernández Espeso, CEO of The Mediapro Studio. It also began blazing a trail for TMS’s drive into English-language series, one of its biggest ambitions.
Yet a sequel was, by any measure, a tall order. Season 1 was always conceived as a limited series , notes Ran Tellem, TMS international content development head and executive producer on “Homeland.” It’s no spoiler to say that very few characters survive The Head. “
Also, the first “The Head” is highly conclusive. “It’s part of the power of Season 1 that when you watch the show and you make it to the last five minutes, you get all the answers to all your questions, everything is answered and you feel relieved,” Tellem says.
So how did he get to imagine a sequel? On March 24, Tellem, one of the great masters of storytelling – and the art of talking about storytelling – will walk a Series Mania audience through keys to the creation of “The Head,” Season 2. Here are six points, explained by Tellem to Variety, which may or may not make his final Series Mania presentation, but are still arresting:
Really Want to Make a Sequel
From comments made at an original unveil of the YLE-TMS series “The Paradise” at Conecta Fiction some years back, Tellem casts creation as an emotional experience which can often spill over friendship. “Jorge became not just a professional partner but a really, really good friend. Really, for me, it was astounding working with him. So I felt like: ‘We wanna do this again.’”
So it’s a Sequel to What?
“We started saying well maybe this show is not just a story but a genre built on four pillars: An isolated place; a survival thriller; no police and super-international. But none of the isolated places – the desert, space – were as powerful as the setting for Season 1.”
Go Back to the Core Dilemma of the First Season
“Dig there, don’t dig elsewhere. Dig in that core dilemma. This is where you will find the answer to a next season,” Tellem argues.
In the case of “The Head,” this involved meeting Barcelona playwright Jordi Galcerán.
“What did you think about the show?” Tellem asked. The show’s O:K.,” said Galcerán. “But I think you’re stupid. It’s really, really clear what the second season should be all about because it’s right there in your [first season] show.”
Season 1 is set at glacial polar research station, headed by Arthur, played by John Lynch, who makes people believe he’s solved climate change. An origins flashback shows him accidentally killing a woman, and liking it. Annika, one of the scientists, argues to her colleagues that if they turn Arthur in, it’s the end of their experiment.
The Road to Damascus Moment.
So, “this is the dilemma of the second season. You haven’t really touched it. You played with it a little bit in Season 1, but the guy is still alive.” Galcerán told Tellem and writer partner Mariano Baselga.
“What happens when you have a person who’s a murderer, a misogynist, a Hannibal Lector, but also a brilliant scientist. He has a solution to the world’s biggest problem, which is climate crisis. Do you throw him in jail or say: Listen, we are 7 billion people on this planet. For this great cause, we are willing to shut our eyes?” “I remember looking at Mariano through the Zoom and telling Jordi right there: “You are right. We are stupid. And, and this is where we started Season 2.”
Play With the Genre Pillars
The most inaccesible point of the Antarctic is 988 miles from coastline, the Pacific’s equivalent, Nemo Point, is nearly double that, 1,680 miles from an island. The closest human beings are astronauts aboard the International Space Station when it passes overhead. “So we took isolation deeper and bigger,” said Tellem, who said that Season 2 – again starring Lynch and Katharine O’Donnelly (“Mary Queen of Scotts,” “Clique”) reprising their roles as biologist Arthur Wilde and young doctor Maggie Mitchell – also doves deeper into characters, both motives and back stories, he adds.
Believe the Sequel’s Important
“‘The Head’ for me has shifted something in what I think is the definition of what we do at The Mediapro Studio,” said Tellem. One of the most amazing moments was to realize that the show was sold to HBO in America, he adds. “I was involved in shows where an original format from Israel or from other countries was sold and adapted to the U.S. But to take a show like this, made with our budget in Europe, which is not special because it’s in Iceland or in Spanish.: I think that’s amazing and this is our future: To create shows that can speak a language that many people understand,” he concludes.