Netflix has enlisted Narcos showrunner Eric Newman for a limited series about another drug crisis: the opioid epidemic.
Newman, Peter Berg (Friday Night Lights, The Leftovers) and Alex Gibney (Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief, The Inventor) are among the executive producers of Painkiller, an eight-episode series that will dramatize the origins of the crisis. Berg will also direct all eight episodes.
New Yorker writer Patrick Radden Keefe‘s article “The Family That Built an Empire of Pain” and Pulitzer Prize winner Barry Meier’s book Pain Killer: An Empire of Deceit and the Origin of America’s Opioid Epidemic will serve as source material for the project, and both will serve as consultants. Micah Fitzerman-Blue and Noah Harpster (A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood) will write and serve as showrunners.
“A tragedy decades in the making, the opioid crisis has become one of the most devastating public health crises of our time,” Newman, showrunner of Narcos and Narcos: Mexico, said Tuesday in a statement. “Unlike other drug epidemics, born from underground manufacturing and covert smuggling, this epidemic began by prescription — dispensed by doctors, approved by government regulators, and promoted by a family-owned pharmaceutical giant that made billions while betraying the trust of patients and the public. I’m grateful to Micah & Noah, and Alex for bringing this story to me. Noah and Micah’s narrative of how it happened, based on the spectacular reporting of Patrick Radden Keefe and Barry Meier, is heartbreaking and terrifying. I’m honored to be working with the great Alex Gibney, and I’m thrilled that Peter Berg is coming on to direct it.”
Said Netflix vp content Cindy Holland: “Eric Newman has masterfully chronicled the drug trade for years and now I’m excited to see him join forces with the incredible Alex Gibney, Micah Fitzerman-Blue and Noah Harpster to take a more expansive view of the opioid epidemic. Combined with the directing of Peter Berg, Painkiller promises to be a powerful look behind the headlines of a tragedy happening in real time.”
Painkiller is one of several recent and in-the-works TV and film projects that tackle the opioid epidemic, including the Timothee Chalamet starrer Beautiful Boy, a movie in development at 101 Studios and Dopesick, based on the best-selling book by Beth Macy that Fox 21 and The Littlefield Company optioned for TV.
“I am really charged to be a part of such an in depth exploration of the genesis of the opioid travesty,” said Berg. “Companies that profit off of death and addiction are fair game to me when it comes to illuminating the realities of how they go about their business.”
Newman, who has an overall deal at Netflix, will executive produce with Berg, Gibney, Fitzerman-Blue and Harpster. Netflix hasn’t set a release date for the series yet.