Meet Walter Blanco. He's the flawed lead character in Metastasis, a new Colombian series from Sony Pictures Television with a bold premise: It's about this chemistry teacher who becomes a methamphetamine cook. It's Breaking Bad. In Spanish.
As U.S. fans of Vince Gilligan's Emmy-winning drama enter postfinale withdrawal, Sony and Colombian producer Teleset are hoping to hook Latin Americans on the story of Walter, partner Jose (Jesse), wife Cielo (Skyler) and brother-in-law -- and narcotics agent -- Henry Navarro (Hank).
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"Breaking Bad is a fantastic series that wasn't widely seen in Latin America, partly because cable doesn't yet have full penetration in the region," says Angelica Guerra, SPT senior vp and managing director of production for Latin America and the U.S. Hispanic market. "[But] there is a universality to the story and its characters that we recognized could work very well."
Although Sony has sold Breaking Bad into more than 170 territories worldwide, the nature of the material (drug use, extreme violence) has made the original show a little-seen niche property in most countries. In the U.K., for instance, it was dropped after the second season but revived by Netflix.
Metastasis (a reference to metastasizing cancer) promises to be more mainstream, at least for Spanish speakers accustomed to such crime telenovelas as El Cartel and La Saga. SPT has presold the first season of Metastasis to all major Spanish-speaking markets across Latin America as well as to Univision's UniMas network in the U.S.
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Sony insists no other foreign versions are in the works, but the company is an adaptations specialist, having done local-lingo takes on Everybody Loves Raymond for Russia and the Middle East and Married ... With Children in a dozen countries.
Guerra assures Breaking Bad devotees that producers have consulted with Gilligan and his team and that Metastasis will be true to its twisted source material. But a few minor details have been tweaked. "Motor homes are not popular in Colombia," she says, "so audiences will see Walter and Jose cooking up their first several batches of methamphetamine in an old, barely drivable school bus."