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Julianne and Derek Hough are telling tales from the hidden side of the dancing world.
The brother-sister pair is developing a Starz scripted drama set in the world of competitive ballroom dancing, for which they will draw on years of first-hand experiences as competitors at the world-championship level. Titled Blackpool, the drama effort will revolve around the prestigious annual ballroom competition in Blackpool, England, with a focus on the darker side of ballroom dancing.
“When you’re in the world, you’re so invested. It’s literally the be-all and end-all. But when you step back from it, you see that obsession with perfection and the fact that the lifestyle that you thought was so glamorous is actually a little shocking,” Julianne Hough says in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter. The comment comes mere weeks after Hough revealed in a Cosmopolitan cover story that she was a victim of physical and emotional abuse as a young dancer living in England.
Her brother, who appears on Dancing With the Stars, one of the many TV series that have capitalized on the interest in the dancing genre in recent years, makes clear that the series will push into hidden areas of the sport. “What makes it so interesting is seeing all of the politics and the scandal,” says Derek Hough. “It’s framed in the world of ballroom dancing, but the stories that are intertwined are of the partnerships and the sex and the love triangles.”
In addition to lending their own tales from the ultra-competitive world, the pair will serve as executive producers on the project as well as the head choreographers. At this time, they have no plans to appear onscreen, though they do intend to be actively involved in the process of hiring and casting. Julianne, currently on an international press tour for her film Safe Haven, notes that she is meeting with potential writers in London.
The siblings say that this drama is something that they have toyed with bringing to the small screen for some time. They shopped it to a handful of networks, but they say that they were particularly struck by Starz CEO Chris Albrecht’s passion for it in the room. And while they have a deep well from which to draw, they don’t intend to make this a purely autobiographical tale. “We definitely want it to be fictionalized,” says Julianne. “We’re going to start with our experiences in the world and stories that we’ve either seen or gone through, but it’ll be fun to be able to elaborate and fictionalize these characters.”
It is worth noting that Starz — still best known as a male-centric network — is also developing a drama set in the world of ballet dancing from Pulp Fiction‘s Lawrence Bender and Breaking Bad co-executive producer Moira Walley-Beckett. The untitled female-driven entry will center on a young ballet dancer named Claire with a troubled past who joins a ballet company in New York. The project, which is similarly billed as dark and gritty, will explore the dysfunctional underbelly of the ballet world.
Elsewhere in the premium cable network’s development pipeline is a 1960s crime drama from The Departed‘s William Monahan; a sci-fi action thriller titled Incursion from Spartacus‘ Steven S. DeKnight; a potential Spartacus spinoff; and Turf, a drama about the birth of hip-hop from Patrick Macmanus.
Julianne, whose other on-screen credits include Footloose, Rock of Ages and the upcoming Diablo Cody film Paradise, is repped by CAA and Azoff, Geary, Paul, Smith Management; Derek, the only three-time champion in Dancing With the Stars‘ history, is repped by UTA and The Collective.
Email: Lacey.Rose@THR.com; Twitter: @LaceyVRose