Anatomy of hit TV ‘You’: real book, creator, global reach

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LOS ANGELES (AP) – When veteran TV producer Greg Berlanti was invited to adapt the novel “You” about a seductive charmer with a murderous streak, he immediately fixed former “Supernatural” producer Sera Gamble as his colleague.

It may sound “terrible”, but it was the opposite, explains Berlanti.

Caroline Kepnes’s book had “all of the great things I love about Sera’s writing. It’s mushy and addicting, but also highly intelligent and smart and has something to say about our culture, our society, ‘”he said.

“You,” starring Penn Badgley as the violent and distraught Joe, became a worldwide hit on Netflix after a reluctant US release on Lifetime. The drama, which comes from a bestselling novel series, is in preparation for its fourth season. The release date will be announced.

“It’s always so difficult to predict how television will play out while you’re doing it. You feel like you’re in a little production bubble, ”said Gamble, co-creator and executive producer of the show with Berlanti. She is ready to analyze the success she describes as exciting.

“One of the reasons it attracts people around the world, I think, is that what we explore about love and obsession is absolutely universal and can be translated into any human language,” she said.

“Everyone knows the feeling of wanting someone who may be bad for them and wanting to know things that one shouldn’t really know,” says Gamble, whose parents emigrated from Poland to the USA. “I don’t see why the United States should be any different than India or Japan or anywhere else.”

Joe pursues his ill-fated objects of desire through a mixture of classic, personal stalking, combined with espionage and manipulation on social media. This enables “You” to make satirical hay, among other modern habits of posing online and people’s willingness to accept each other’s value on Facebook.

Bela Bajaria, Head of Global TV at Netflix, said the streaming service has confidence in producers Berlanti, whose extensive credits “Riverdale”, “The Flash” and “The Flight Attendant” and Gamble (“Physical”, “The Magicians “belong)), along with series captain Badgley (” Gossip Girl “).

“The scripts had a really strong voice and they (the story) had a really great thriller engine,” Bajaria said. “With Penn’s voice-over, it felt very individual and very entertaining, and we felt like it would work globally.”

Last fall, the release of “You” in its third season was number 1 on Netflix’s list of Top 10 shows for four weeks and spent a total of eight weeks on the list, which also included seasons one and two several times. The show was accompanied by “Maid” and “Tiger King 2”.

For Berlanti, who received a copy of Kepnes’ 2014 novel from producer Warner Bros., the book sold as a TV project.

“I devoured it on a weekend, and it was just about the time people started doing shows, or at least talking about binge shows,” he said. He concluded that viewers would be just as eager for a show that would take the concept to the next level. But he had to team up with what he called “the right person”.

Enter Gamble, who remembers Berlanti introducing the book to her with a promise that “within the first few pages she would understand why it was so intense”.

“You are put right inside this guy’s head and you are treated with all of his private thoughts,” said Gamble. “There is something so brilliant about hearing, perfectly honest, uncensored thoughts. Most of us trying to be polite and acceptable and just moving around the world think of all sorts of things. “

Then came the critical task of finding an actor whose portrayal of the killer Joe could hold the audience’s sympathies despite all odds.

“We auditioned a lot of really fantastic actors for the role,” and had a short list of candidates for a screening test, said Gamble, the show’s producer. Then came the news that Badgley might be interested.

“He came to the table as a TV star, so the process is different for someone like him. It’s less about coming into a room full of people to audition and more about sitting down with the creators and just having a conversation, ”she said.

Badgley had doubts about portraying a character he found disgusting, Gamble said. But after a series of discussions, “we all realized that we all agreed on why we wanted to explore Joe and why we wanted to do the show.”

“You” with the comical relief of satire is not the dystopian nightmare of the Netflix hit “Squid Game”. But does it, with its twisted protagonist and unfortunate ending, reflect the somber attitudes of the younger generations?

Gamble, itself Millennial, approaches this question from a creative point of view.

“I have these two impulses as an artist and they are in direct contradiction to one another,” she said. “One is that I want to mess around with romantic stories because I love them,” she said. “The other is that I have a really strong drive to take a close look … all of the ways our culture creates the conditions in which so much violence is done to women.”

“Making you,” said Gamble, “was a process of proving to us time and time again that they are impossible to intertwine.”


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