The first eight-hour season of My Brilliant Friend will debut this fall on HBO. Based on the first of four ‘Neapolitan Novels’ written by Italian author Elena Ferrante, the drama series is produced in collaboration with Italian state broadcaster Rai, and is HBO’s first ever non-English series. In fact, it is not only in Italian, it includes Neapolitan dialect – which even Italian native speakers have trouble understanding.
“One of the first questions HBO asked me was to make sure that the series would be spoken in a strong Neapolitan dialect,” Italian director Saverio Costanzo told The Hollywood Reporter. “That really struck me: I asked why an American network should care about the accuracy of a language if their audiences would be watching the series with subtitles. They replied that they wanted the series to be authentic.”
So authentic that most of the actors were cast from the streets of Naples itself. “Having mainly children and teenagers (as our leads) we had no alternative to going out onto the streets,” Costanzo told The Hollywood Reporter. “Naples is an open-air theatre. Perhaps as a defense against the violence of the city, the Neapolitans need to always wear a mask. I found a city of phenomenal actors.”
The best-selling novels follow the lifelong friendship and conflicts between two women, Elena and Lila, who meet as schoolgirls in Naples in the early 1950s. The story is told by Elena when she is in her 60s after Lila disappears without a trace.
Elena and Lila are played in the first season by Elisa Del Genio and Ludovica Nasti and, as teenagers, by Margherita Mazzucco and Gaia Girace.
The mysterious Elena Ferrante, whose identity has never been revealed for sure (‘Elena Ferrante’ is a pseudonym; last year, an investigative journalist for Il Sole 24 Ore identified literary translator Anita Raja as Ferrante, but that has never been confirmed), worked closely on the TV adaptation of her novels, communicating with director Costanzo via email.
The hotly anticipated drama series premiered its first two episodes at the Venice Film Festival. 24 further episodes are planned and RAI has accepted to adapt the final three books of the series.
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