EXCLUSIVE: Keshet Studios, the company behind NBC’s La Brea, is heading to Cuba for its next project.
The U.S. arm of the Israeli media conglomerate has teamed up with Queen of the South showrunner Dailyn Rodriguez to adapt Tropicana Nights: The Life and Times of the Legendary Cuban Nightclub by Rosa Lowinger and Ofelia Fox.
It comes as Jurassic Park-meets-Lost drama, written by David Appelbaum and co-produced by Universal Television, is set to premiere tonight, Tuesday September 28 on NBC.
Tropicana Nights, which is in the vein of Moulin Rouge, Cabaret and Casino, tells the story of the notorious Cuban nightclub in the 1950s, when the club provided a fun, vibrant, wildly entertaining safe haven for those looking to escape the political unrest and persecution on the streets of Havana.
It centers on the love story and partnership between the club’s owners Martin and Ofelia Fox, who tirelessly fought to preserve their paradise under the stars against various threats, including rival club owners, the mafia and Cuban revolutionaries.
The El Tropicano nightclub, which opened in 1939, is still open to the public today. It was home to Nat King Cole, Marlon Brando and Ernest Hemingway.
Keshet Studios’ President Peter Traugott told Deadline that the project came out of a general meeting with Cuban American writer Rodriguez, who has also written on series including Fox’s Fantasy Island and ABC’s Ugly Betty.
“It’s a spectacularly beautiful space that still exists today. But when you peel it back a bit, [the Tropicana] was this kind of safe-haven for people who didn’t fit in, people from all over the world – people of different colours, sexualities, genders and whatever was going in beyond the walls was left behind,” He stated. “It’s a really crazy love story at the centre with this backdrop and at it centre its exploring lots of issues that are still relevant.
Rodriguez added, “I’ve wanted to write about the Tropicana for years. My mother used to tell me amazing stories about the shows she and my father saw there, so this dynamic, special world is close to my heart.”
Keshet Studios is now taking it out to market.
Tropicana Nights is one of a number of projects that the company has in various stages of development including La Brea on air.
The drama, starring Natalie Zea and focusing on a mother-son duo after an LA sinkhole opens up mysteriously in February 2020, was in production. While the pilot wasn’t able to finish filming then as a result of Covid, the show opened a writers’ room and produced six more scripts and was handed a straight-to-series in January 2021.
NBC has high hopes for the show, which was pitched as Lost-meets-Land of the Lost. Traugott said that he’s pleased with the support. “The only thing worse than a network not liking you show is that they love it so much that there’s that pressure. We have no control with the ratings. NBC and Universal have been so supportive because La Brea has the potential to draw in audiences, and if they turn-up, the pressure is on us to keep bringing them back,” He stated.
Keshet, which has a first-look deal with Universal Television, is one of only a handful of independents to put focus on the linear broadcast business and has been rewarded for series orders for shows such as NBC’s The Brave andLincoln Rhyme: Hunt for the Bone Collector and ABC’s The Baker and the Beauty. “I like the seasonality of all, you make a pilot and then you know whether or not you’re going to series. You get an answer, you either shit or get off the pot,” He said that he was pleased to share this information.
The company is also in production with Echo 3, a remake of When Heroes Fly, for Apple TV+, is working with HBO on an adaptation of Ronen Bergman’s Rise and Kill First, about a joint operation between the CIA and Mossad to assassinate Hezbollah co-founder Imad Mughniyeh, and developing hour-long drama After School Special, from Lucifer’s Aiyana White and Ildy Modrovich with Peacock.
Other projects include a TV adaptation of black comedy feature Stockholm, which was set up at Amazon but Keshet is looking to make it independently, a remake of Line in the Sand and a new take on Ties That Bind, a remake of an Australian series, that was previously in development with NBC.
Traugott said that its development pipeline is around 1/3 projects from Keshet IP out of Israel, 1/3 from third party formats and 1/3 ground-up development, based on books or other IP.
Dailyn Rodriguez is repped by Rothman Brecher Ehrich Livingston, and Keshet is repped by WME.