‘High Potential’: ABC Remake’s Original Creative Team Talk Helping Drew Goddard Adapt For The U.S. & Forging A “Global Brand”
EXCLUSIVE: The cameras will soon start rolling on the highest-profile French series to be remade in the U.S., ABC’s High Potential, with the show’s seller believing this latest remake will catapult it to “global brand” status.
High Potential was recently taken from pilot to series in the U.S., becoming one a number of global remakes of France’s TF1/Belgium’s La Une original High Intellectual Potential (HPI). The show is one of a very small number from France to have made their way across the Atlantic, joining the likes of A&E’s version of The Returned and Apple TV+’s Calls US.
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Disney Television Studios’ ABC Signature announced it was remaking HPI last year and it wasn’t long before Deadline revealed that ABC was showing interest. Daredevil and Cloverfield helmer Drew Goddard subsequently boarded as EP, Rob Thomas is showrunner and Kaitlin Olson (It’s Always Sunny) is leading opposite the likes of Javicia Leslie, Deniz Akdeniz and Judy Reyes.
The series follows Morgan (Olson), a single mum with three kids and an exceptional mind, who helps solve an unsolvable crime when she rearranges some evidence during her shift as a cleaner for the police department. In France, it has been a huge hit, with distributor Newen Connect claiming Season 1 is the third most-watched show in French TV history. A fourth season is now in the offing.
“We are building a global brand,” says Newen Connect CEO Rodolphe Buet, who has helped oversee more than 100 territory deals for the show – most of them finished tape. “Some shows don’t travel so well but HPI feels like it is in the territory of House or Sherlock. I am convinced that the U.S. version will help with this.”
Buet reveals several U.S. studios were interested in the remake.
Although the SAG and WGA strikes have pushed High Potential’s production back likely towards the end of this year, the original production team from Septembre Productions-Mediawan and Itinéraire Productions had been advising ABC Signature, with the pilot launching several weeks ago with fanfare.
“The first meeting with ABC was technical and then we very quickly set a call with the creative team,” adds Buet. “I was amazed by their reaction. They were asking really good questions about next steps and we felt that their engagement was deep and not just artificial.”
When Goddard came aboard, negotiations became a lot easier, according to Buet.
While the French producers have been “in collaborative partnership with ABC from creative to business affairs,” producer Anthony Lancret says the plan was to always take a light touch regarding editorial.
“Americans have been making series for 80 years so we don’t have much to teach them and were just honored that they were interested in our show,” he adds. “They have been extremely positive from day one.”
The U.S. version will take a similar story-of-the-week approach to the French, with the pilot having closely followed the plot of the French one.
Another of the show’s producers, Bérengère Legrand, was “proud” to discover that ABC is keeping some of the characters names the same for its version. The lead in both is called Morgan, for example. “These are quite typical French names so we are proud that they didn’t change to American,” she says.
For Legrand, French shows have tended to struggle to travel to the U.S. due in part to a difference in “domestic traditions.” The U.S. has remade few French shows but many from the UK, for instance.
“The States already has a prolific production market with its own ecosystem and a great tradition of storytelling,” she adds. “Comedies are even more difficult to export and each domestic market has its own tradition of fiction production. But we tried to be universal and HPI is very inspired by American shows in its conception and construction of characters, which may be why this one has fitted in with the U.S. market.”
Beyond the U.S., the show has been a big seller for Newen round the world and remakes in the likes of Greece and Hungrary are currently in production.
No risk on investment
Upon launch in 2021, Buet says he took around 50 phone calls from international buyers. Just two years on, the show has now attracted more than 280 million worldwide viewers, selling all over the world and securing key partners such as Italy’s RAI almost from day one. Along with Spain and Switzerland, Italy has remained one of the keenest supporters of the series throughout, the producers say.
“When I joined the company my boss gave me an HPI script and said ‘This is not my cup of tea but can you read and see if there is a risk on investment?’,” explains Buet. “My first instinct was that he could sleep easy. We knew we would recoup the mininmum guarantee but were not expecting such a fantastic result.”
Having been handed a coveted billing in TF1’s Thursday night cop show slot, the producers put the success of the show in France partly down to the Erin Brockovich-like lead, and they say auditioning actress Audrey Fleurot was a crucial moment.
Itinéraire’s Pierre Laugier says that she is in a in a similar mould to American heroines from cop shows that have performed well in France down the years, again lending credence to the argument that HPI has taken an American style and sold this back to the U.S. “It is very rare that a comedian like Audrey meets the role of her life,” adds Laugier.
“At first she was more like [Girl with the Dragon Tattoo protagonist] Lisbeth Salander but we brought her more into the domestic sphere,” Legrand goes on to say. “We tried to tread new ground to make this woman an eveyday heroine. We thought we had something because the scripts were brilliant, the characters were strongly rooted and the humor was there.”
Throughout the seasons, Lancret adds that the team led by showrunners Alice Chegaray Breugnot and Julien Anscutter has continued to “push boundaries every time.”
“We try to surprise the audience by bringing more illustration,” he considers. “Whether it be through animation or scenes in black and white, we don’t stay in our comfort zone.”
ABC will shortly discover whether this “boundary-pushing” take on a traditional detective story will satsify viewer appetite.
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