Breaking Bad is going south of the border.
The Emmy-winning series, about a cancer-stricken chemistry teacher who turns meth dealer to provide for his family, has been remade nearly scene for scene in Spanish. Metastasis premieres Sunday (10 ET/PT) on Univision, Unimas and Galavision (without English subtitles), and throughout Latin America. It will then air weeknights on Unimas and complete its run in three months, instead of six years on AMC, allowing Spanish-speaking viewers to binge more quickly in a pattern common to telenovelas, a popular TV staple.
"They did all the 62 episodes we did but made them much faster, on a smaller budget," says Bad creator Vince Gilligan, who had "zero" input in the adaptation but experienced a "slightly disorienting feeling of déjà vu" watching the first episode. "It simultaneously inspires me and makes me feel a little sheepish that we took as much money and shooting hours as we did."
Each episode was filmed in an average of 21/2 days, compared with eight for the American version. And there were minor tweaks to account for geography and cultural differences: Bad was shot in the flat desert of Albuquerque; Metastasiswas filmed in colder, mountainous Bogota. In Metastasis, Walter Blanco (Diego Trujillo) and his former student Jose Rosas cook meth in an old school bus, because RVs are virtually non-existent in Colombia. Pest exterminators are also uncommon, so the pair pose as demolition experts. And sleazy lawyer Saul Bueno hawks his services on a TV talk show instead of in late-night telemarketing ads.
Trujillo says he hadn't seen the AMC series before his audition but found it "fascinating," adding that while he "didn't want to get so influenced, I couldn't stop watching." He starred in remakes of Desperate Housewives ("the adaptation was not well done") and Grey's Anatomy, which worked better because "it turned out more like a soap opera."
Yet he says "it's a big challenge to do what somebody else has done so wonderfully."
Angelica Guerra, senior VP at Sony Pictures Television, says the studio had to wait for the final season to be written before proceeding with its remake, adding that the series' drug themes "didn't feel far away from the Latin American perspective to give it a shot. It completely respects the original version. If you have a genius script, why would you change it?"
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