Rapper Drake bringing Israeli teen drama to HBO
'Euphoria' will star 'The Greatest Showman's' Zendaya, as well as Judd Apatow's daughter.
Actor-turned-rapper Drake is returning to his television roots. The Canadian multi-hyphenate, who got his start on the teen series “Degrassi: The Next Generation,” will executive produce a new drama for HBO called "Euphoria." According to Variety, the show "follows a group of high school students as they navigate drugs, sex, identity, trauma, social media, love and friendship."
Drake isn't the only big name to join the cast and crew. Actress and pop star Zendaya, hot off her performance in "The Greatest Showman," will star in the show – as will Maude Apatow, the daughter of famed comedy producer Judd Apatow. Sam Levinson, the son of acclaimed film director Barry Levinson, will write the entire first season.
"Euphoria" is the latest Israeli show to make it on premium cable following “Homeland,” “In Treatment” and “The Affair.” The new series was created by Ron Leshem, a winner of the Sapir Prize – Israel's top literary award. He is best known for the film "Beaufort," which was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.
The meteoric success of "Homeland" has led Hollywood to come knocking on Israel's door. Networks like HBO, Showtime, AMC, Hulu, NBC and CBS have all traveled to Israel hoping to find television's next big hit. Karni Ziv, a television executive in Israel behind some of the country's most popular shows, helps put on the annual Innovative TV Conference in Jerusalem, so networks can see what Israel has coming down the pipeline.
Ziv thinks the trend of America importing Israeli shows all come down to the writing. "I think that mostly they're finding special ideas and very good writers," she told From The Grapevine at the conference. "We don't have big budgets to make very big shows. So we need to invest most of our time in writing very good stories and very good scripts. We need to go to drill down on the story, on the dialogs, on the characters and just when we know that that's okay, we will go to a show."
She explained that Israel does not use the typical "pilot" system, where a costly first episode of a show is made and then tested in front of network suits. "We don't have the money for that," she told us. "So we really invest most of our time and efforts in finding the right writers that have a story that he wants to tell and it's really all about that. We can't use a big budget to cover a not very good story."
Added David Levine, the Co-Head of Drama for HBO Programming, at the conference: "We’re always looking for things from Israel because of the innovation and the way things are filmed."
Drake's "Eurphoria" is set to premiere on HBO next year.
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