9:50am PT by Michael O'Connell, Lesley Goldberg
Dr. Dre Filming Apple's First Scripted Television Series (Exclusive)
Apple is making its first original television show. The Hollywood Reporter has learned that the technology giant is backing a top-secret scripted series starring one of its own executives, Beats co-founder and rap legend Dr. Dre.
Multiple sources say the 50-year-old mogul is starring in and executive producing his own six-episode vehicle, dubbed Vital Signs, and the production is being bankrolled by Apple. The series likely will be distributed via Apple Music, the company's subscription streaming site, but it's not clear if Apple TV, the iTunes store or other Apple platforms (or even a traditional television distributor) will be involved. Apple and a rep for Dre declined to comment.
Those who have seen descriptions of the Dr. Dre show say it is billed as semi-autobiographical, with each episode focusing on a different emotion and how Dre’s character deals with it. Sources say that Sam Rockwell and Mo McRae (Murder in the First) are among the additional cast.
While technically a half-hour, the show is not a comedy. Instead, it is described as a dark drama with no shortage of violence and sex. In fact, an episode filming Monday and Tuesday this week featured an extended orgy scene. Sources tell THR that naked extras simulated sex in a mansion in the Bird Streets neighborhood of Los Angeles’ Hollywood Hills. (Dre's wife Nicole Young was on set to witness the shenanigans, one insider says.)
Veteran music video director Paul Hunter is helming Vital Signs, which is also being produced under his Eye Candy banner alongside producers Aaron Ginsburg and William Green. Empire co-exec producer-writer Robert Munic was hand-picked by Dre to write all six episodes and exec produce. The first season will roll out all at once, regardless of venue, a la Netflix. Apple is said to be very bullish on the project.
Talk of Apple’s interest in original programming has been around for a few years, or at least since Netflix and Amazon started finding success in the arena. The company has experimented with video on its Apple Music service, streaming a Taylor Swift concert video and a visual version of DJ Khaled's radio show. But Vital Signs would mark the first concrete investment for the company in scripted television. Apple has no TV studio or real development team, though some execs made the Hollywood studio rounds during summer 2015. This project is said to have originated with Dre, who conceived the idea and pitched it directly to partner Jimmy Iovine .
It makes sense considering Dre’s relationship with the company. In 2014, he and Iovine sold their popular Beats Electronics to Apple for a flabbergasting $3 billion. Vital Signs is currently the only scripted original on deck at Apple, though the company is said to be open to working with artists who already have a relationship there before staffing up a scripted department.
Dre (real name Andre Young) has been on something of a roll lately. He executive produced Universal's 2015 blockbuster, Straight Outta Compton. The drama based on his time in rap group N.W.A. grossed $200 million worldwide. Last year also saw him release Compton, his first studio album in over 15 years. It's sold more than 502,000 copies in the U.S. as of January.