Underscoring a push into more ambitious productions in Latin America, Star Plus, The Walt Disney Company’s year-old general entertainment and sports streaming service in the region, presented an early banner production, “Santa Evita,” at Conecta Fiction & Entertainment in a gala screening on June 22.
Attendees of the Toledo, Spain-based forum got an exclusive preview of the pilot episode to the seven-part limited series, which is set to bow July 26 on Star Plus Latin America, Hulu in the U.S. and Disney’s Star label in the rest of the world.
“Santa Evita” anticipates more “true life fiction” shows that Star Plus is developing, based on larger-than-life figures in Latin America’s culture and history.
“We’re serving several markets, and in order to connect with our audiences, we’re developing stories about people they know, whose stories they know,” said Leonardo Aranguibel, VP, head of production operations & strategy, The Walt Disney Company Latin America, who lists projects based on Pancho Villa, a leader of the Mexican Revolution, Argentine heavyweight boxing champion Oscar ‘Ringo’ Bonavena and the newly announced “O Rei da TV,” a Gullane production about Silvio Santos, Brazilian entrepreneur, media tycoon and television host.
Another standout at Toledo, “Nada,” sneak-peeked in one excerpt, features Robert de Niro who makes special appearances on the first four episodes and guest stars in episode five.
The dramedy series created by Mariano Cohn and Gaston Duprat (“The Distinguished Citizen,” “Official Competition”) turns on a prominent food critic who depends on a woman who has served as a personal assistant-housekeeper-cook for decades. When he loses her, he hires a young Paraguayan lady, which leads to a clash of cultures and generations, and eventually to some valuable life lessons. De Niro plays a renowned American writer and long-time friend who witnesses the food critic’s life take this unexpected turn.
Speaking at the Conecta Fiction panel alongside Aranguibel, Mariana Pérez, head of general entertainment productions, The Walt Disney Company Latin America, said: “When we thought of who could play this American friend, we immediately thought of De Niro. We sought him out, sent him the scripts, he was intrigued and came to Argentina for a week; it was a wonderful experience,” said Perez, adding: “Once he said yes, the script changed a bit, he collaborated on the changes to expand his character a bit more.”
Aranguibel added: “Robert has not acted in a TV series as a character, he’s made a cameo on “30 Rock” but not as a character. It’s wonderful because it opens huge doors for us with other talent, with other countries, other companies.”
Based on the eponymous bestseller by Argentine journalist Tomás Eloy Martínez, “Santa Evita” follows the surreal fate of the embalmed body of Eva Perón, the charismatic wife of Argentine President Juan Domingo Peron, after her death in 1952. After it remained unburied for three years while a monument was being completed, a military coup overthrew Perón. In order to prevent Eva Peron’s body from becoming a symbol of opposition, the military regime hid her embalmed body for years. “It was taken to Germany, Italy and other places before it was finally returned to Peron when he came back to power,” Aranguibel related. Several wax copies of her body were circulating, confusing everyone even more, he added.
Developed and co-produced with Patricio Rabufetti’s Non Stop, “Santa Evita” is a passion project for Mariana Pérez, head of general entertainment productions, The Walt Disney Company Latin America, who had been developing the series at Fox Networks Group Latin America before the Disney-Fox merger.
Stressing that the series is not a biopic, Perez said: “The most important challenge of this story is that it speaks of a global issue, of a patriarchy that can lead a military regime to sequester a woman’s body for 16 years!”
“It’s how they used her body to establish that they were in charge, that they were in power. That was what drove me to make this story,” she continued.
“We wanted to premiere this on July 26 because it’s been 70 years since Evita Peron’s death, and the opening scene of the series is her death,” Aranguibel added.
The project, 10 years in the making, got a boost when Salma Hayek Pinault and Jose Támez of Ventanarosa boarded it as executive producers with filmmaker Rodrigo García also serving as showrunner and executive producer of the series. Argentine filmmaker, actor, theater director and scriptwriter Alejandro Maci will helm five episodes while Garcia directs the first two.
The international cast is led by Natalia Oreiro (Eva Perón), Ernesto Alterio (Moori Koenig), Darío Grandinetti (Juan Domingo Perón), Francesc Orella (Dr. Ara) and Diego Velázquez (Mariano Vázquez).
Upcoming Star Plus Originals:
“How to Be a Carioca”
Based on the eponymous best-seller, six 40-minute episodes present a wry survival guide to the iconic city of Rio de Janeiro. Produced by Star Original Productions and Moovie, it was co-created and directed by Carlos Saldanha (“Rio,” “Ice Age,” “Ferdinand”) and Joana Mariani (“O Cheiro do Ralo,” “Todas as Canções de Amor”). The series is also co-created by Diogo Dahl (“Novo Mundo”) and directed by René Sampaio (“Impuros”), with screenplays by Rodrigo Nogueira, Sabrina Rosa and Felipe Scholl.
Made by Metrovisión, the series created and directed by Argentine television directors and producers Mariano Cohn and Gastón Duprat with scripts by Emanuel Diez, Cohn and Duprat. Robert de Niro joins a stellar cast led by Argentine actor Luis Brandoni (“Esperando la carroza,” “Mi obra maestra”) as well as Majo Cabrera, María Rosa Fugazot, Silvia Kutika, Enrique Piñeyro, Belén Chavanne, Daniel Aráoz, Cecilia Dopazo, Gastón Cocchiarale, Daniel Miglioranza, Ariadna Asturzzi and Rodrigo Noya. The series marks the acting debuts of essay writer and poet Santiago Kovadloff and chef Francis Mallmann, who also serves as culinary advisor for the series along with chef Narda Lepes and food journalist Federico Oldenburg.
“O Rei da TV”
Starring Brazilian talent José Rubens Chachá, Mariano Mattos, Leona Cavalli and Larissa Nunes, the series was filmed in the city of São Paulo and directed by Gullane. It follows the extraordinary career of Silvio Santos, the greatest Brazilian television presenter, from his childhood as an ambitious street vendor in Rio de Janeiro to becoming Brazil’s most important communicator and businessman. André Abujamra, Ary França, Barbara Maia, Caca Carvalho, Cassia Damasceno, Celso Frateschi, Claudio Marcio, Elisa Romero, Emilio de Mello, Erom Cordeiro, Giselle Ithié, João Campos, Leandro Ramos, Maria Manoella, Paulo Nigro and Roberta Gualda complete the cast.
“Pancho Villa. El Centauro del Norte”
Developed by BTF Media, the series about legendary Mexican revolutionary leader Doroteo Arango, aka Pancho Villa, was filmed on location in the state of Jalisco, Mexico. The series traces his evolution, from his time as a bandit to his transformation into the leader of the Mexican Revolution. The cast is led by Jorge A. Jiménez (Pancho Villa), Juan Luis Medina (Carlos Jáuregui) and Armando Hernández (Tomás Urbina).
“El Grito de las Mariposas”
Produced with Argentina’s Pablo Bossi, following on a highly successful collaboration on “Monzón,” a period drama based on the true story of the Dominican Republic’s Mirabal sisters and one of the most shocking cases of gender violence in Latin American history. Brief excerpts shown at Conecta Fiction suggest a plush period drama, laced by current gender sensibilities.
“Ringo, el Campeón del Pueblo”
Produced by Pampa Films, Gloriamundi Producciones, Primo Content, EO MEDIA and Story Lab, the original fiction series is inspired by the controversial life of Argentine boxing champion Oscar “Ringo” Bonavena. Shot in the Argentine cities of Buenos Aires and Mendoza, “Ringo, el campeón del pueblo” delves into the world of boxing and entertainment as it follows Bonavena’s meteoric rise and eventual fall. Featuring eight 45-minutes episodes, the series is directed by Nicolás Pérez Veiga, who also serves as showrunner.
Star+ Live Music
The new show invites subscribers to enjoy the most relevant local cultural shows live, with access from anywhere to new and different kinds of live entertainment content including concerts, festivals and multiple shows.