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Michael Keaton is making his streaming debut.
The Birdman and Spotlight star has been tapped to topline and exec produce Dopesick, an eight-episode limited series exploring the opioid crisis and based on the best-selling book by Beth Macy. Empire co-creator Danny Strong is on board to pen the scripts and serve as showrunner, with Barry Levinson (Rain Man) set to direct. Warren Littlefield (The Handmaid’s Tale) will exec produce via his overall deal with Fox 21.
Published in August 2018, Dopesick is described as an ambitious and harrowing look into the epicenter of America’s struggle with opioid addiction. The series, produced by Disney-owned Fox 21 TV Studios, will take viewers from a distressed Virginia mining community, to the hallways of the DEA, and to the opulence of “one percenter” Big Pharma Manhattan.
“The minute we met with Danny Strong about Beth Macy’s best-selling book, we immediately knew it was the kind of groundbreaking series we just had to bring to Hulu,” Hulu senior vp originals Craig Erwich said. “Danny’s unflinching and deeply compelling take on America’s opioid crisis will bring to life one of the most important stories impacting our culture. Add to that the cinematic vision of Barry Levinson and the extraordinary talent of Michael Keaton, and we’ve got an undeniable series that perfectly embodies our Hulu Originals brand.”
Keaton will star as Samuel Finnix, an old-school doctor who approaches his practice with kindness and compassion but finds himself embroiled in Big Pharma’s deadly secret. The role marks Keaton’s first regular TV gig in 13 years, since TNT’s WGA Award-winning mini The Company (in which he starred opposite Chris O’Donnell and Alfred Molina).
“Although we were sharply aware of and empathetic to the horrifying pain caused by the opioid crisis for millions in this country, we were blown away when Warren Littlefield showed us Beth Macy’s book Dopesick. Consequently, Danny Strong had been crafting his own telling of the opiate epidemic and in typical Danny form, it was mesmerizing,” Fox 21 TV Studios president Bert Salke said. “The fact that Warren and Danny are collaborating on this is a studio’s dream. Together with Barry Levinson and Michael Keaton, we have every reason to believe this important story will be one of the TV events of the coming year.”
Dopesick marks Strong’s follow-up to Fox’s hip-hop drama Empire, which wrapped its run last season. (The series finale was, however, unable to be completed before the novel coronavirus shut down production across the industry.) Strong has also been rumored to be attached to a Taraji P. Henson-led Empire spinoff that is also on the table at Fox. Dopesick stems from Strong’s overall deal with 20th Century Fox Television, where he re-upped last year.
“I’m so thrilled to tell this story with a company as bold and as daring as Hulu,” Strong said. “The opioid crisis is one of the most important stories of our time and I’m honored to not only pay tribute to its victims but to shine a light on the heroes that fought back. Laws were broken and many lies were told. The system failed us and Dopesick is going to show everyone how it all happened.”
Strong, Keaton, Levinson, Littlefield, John Goldwyn (Dexter), author Macy and Karen Rosenfelt (Twilight) are all attached to exec produce.
Dopesick is the latest high-profile limited series to land at Hulu, joining Reese Washington and Kerry Washington’s Little Fires Everywhere and FX on Hulu’s star-studded Mrs. America. Next up, the Disney-backed streamer has The Dropout, starring Kate McKinnon as well as Nine Perfect Strangers, with Nicole Kidman and Melissa McCarthy. Hulu’s scripted roster includes The Handmaid’s Tale, Normal People, Ramy, PEN15, Dollface, The Great, High Fidelity, Solar Opposites and the upcoming Steve Martin-Martin Short comedy from This Is Us creator Dan Fogelman, among several others.
Keaton, whose TV credits include guest spots on 30 Rock and Frasier as well as multiple episodes of The Mary Tyler Moore Hour and Working Stiffs, is repped by ICM Partners and Ziffren Brittenham.
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