Few companies have put as much energy as Brazilian TV giant Globo into pushing out their new slate during the week when NATPE Miami was scheduled to occur.

Packed with new and retuning hit shows, Globo’s roster marks a robust consolidation of early last year’s business strategy of unifying free TV, pay TV, streaming and digital properties under the name “One Single Globo”.

Rubbing shoulders with burgeoning franchises – the second season of eco thriller “Aruanas,” Season 4 of social issue medical drama “Under Pressure” — is  “In Your Place,” the new telenovela that is airing in prime time in Brazil.

The show is created and written by Lícia Manzo, one of the many talented female writers that are propelling a new era of Globo, author of such hits as “The Life We Lead.”

It follows the lives of twin brothers – played charmingly by “Brazil Avenue” star Cauã Reymond – separated at birth and living diametrically opposite lives in the abysmally unequal Brazilian society. Of course, both are destined to find each other and irrevocably change one another’s lives when one of them dies and the other takes the chance to replace his brother and change his fortune.

The well known premise gives room to Manzo and director Maurício Farias to put a spin on it, navigating an ever more embroiled plot that will delight any novela fan while never forgetting the stark realities that confronts its characters.

Variety talked with showrunner Licia Manzo as “In Your Place” is being launched on the open market:

There’s a sort of story archetype in Mark Twain’s 1881 “The Prince and the Pauper” that still resonates nowadays and is the reason why it has been used many many times in our medium. What did you find thematically interesting when playing and subverting that same premise in a modern Brazil? 

In fact, the difference between social classes was always the subject of romances and famous feuilletons: from Mark Twain to Machado de Assis; Victor Hugo to Janete Clair. There’s nothing more pungent than the social position of lovers, friends, being in their way. At a point when the abyss separating the poor from the rich in Brazil is so large – 13 million unemployed, one fourth of the population living on the poverty line and only 14% of adults with college degrees – it seemed like a timely challenge creating socially excluded and invisible Christian s the lead and Renato as his polar opposite.

Questions such as integrity, ethics, social inequality, are raised in “In Your Place” not from a statistical or factual point of view but on an intimate, subjective and human level. Blending the ink of feuilletons with reality, promoting dialog and emotion, reflection and entertainment – that was what I was aiming at with this project.

A big challenge implied in the novela format is creating a character’s arc that can span dozens of hour long episodes. Having more than 100 episodes to your name and knowing far more about your craft, how do you deal with that challenge when developing the series?

I always say that a telenovela is not a 100-meter sprint – it’s a marathon, requiring lung capacity, planning. With no pretension of having a “method” since the first telenovela I wrote, I think I intuitively chose a central event – a melodramatic one, very feuilleton-like – so as to around it, create a series of secondary, peripheral stories: Daily life, realistic stories, short contemporary chronicles, revolving around the behavior of the characters. A menu of several human dramas, where I try to reach different audiences.

Through this variety of small stories, I thing I can walk a longer path without the risk of exhausting my resources. Dialing up and down the “volume” of one of the peripheral plots, letting another take the stage; all of that aligned with the central story – and it is precisely that polyphony, or even the alternating and interaction between the different groups and plots that make up the telenovela.

Even if Christian and in a way the memory of Renato are the clear protagonists of the series, they are accompanied by two very interesting female secondary characters, Lara and Barbara, both of them complex in their own right. What’s your take on writing secondary characters? 

I think that there must be no difference between a lead role and a secondary one. Even in the dialogs: Pay attention so that both exist in equal conditions – both will have their reasons and their arguments. Make sure each character, irrespective of size, has their share of humanity, their backstory, their dreams and wishes.

Although I don’t believe in manuals or rules, I think this is an essential guidance for producing good story structures.

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Licia Manzo Credit: Joao Cotta