LosAngeles Actor Danny Strong appears regularly in an eclectic batch of series ranging from the lightheartedness of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Gilmore Girls to the grim corruption of Billions.
But when it comes to investing your time as an Emmy-winning writer and producer, there is consistency in the projects, whether the subject matter is political (Recount, Game Change) or racial (Lee Daniels The Butler). Strong’s work is contemporary and incisive.
Hulu’s Dopesick matches the model. The eight-part miniseries on America’s opioid crisis weaves the devastating toll of pain relievers and the actions of those who helped it or failed to stop it. Three episodes debuted on the streaming service on Wednesday, with the rest slated for release weekly.
I want to work on things that seem important to me, the stories that need to be told, Strong said. “When done right, those kinds of stories, the weight of the subject matter and what they’re trying to convey, make them better entertainment.
While some may equate socially relevant projects with being good for you or going to school, I don’t see it that way at all, he said in an interview.
Michael Keaton, playing the role of a family doctor who unwittingly becomes part of the problem, finds a similar sense of accomplishment with Dopesick and the socially relevant films he’s appeared in.
I am in a privileged position where what I do for a living gives me the opportunity to make a difference or affect people in some way, he said in a session. of questions and answers with television reviews. If you’re talking about Spotlight or Worth ‘… or other things I’ve done, I’m lucky in that regard.
Strong spent three years researching and writing or co-writing every episode of Dopesick except one, which was in part inspired by journalist Beth Macys’ non-fiction book of the same name. What he learned was revealing and ultimately infuriating.
It wasn’t until I started delving into the material that I thought, it’s just a crazy, crazy story, said Strong, who is also a director and producer of the show. I was so outraged by what they had done at Purdue Pharma.
The ensemble cast includes Michael Stuhlbarg as Richard Sackler, portrayed as the mastermind of Purdue’s expanded OxyContin use, and Peter Sarsgaard and Rosario Dawson as federal adversaries of the Sackler family business.
Addicts are a crucial and heart-wrenching part of the drama, including a young Virginia mine worker, Betsy (Kaitlyn Dever), who becomes addicted to opioids after being injured. Her parents (Mare Winningham, Ray McKinnon) are eager to save her.
Some characters, including Richard Sackler, are based on actual individuals, while others are fictional or composite characters, which Strong says allowed for a more universal story.
Macy, whose full title of the 2018 book is Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors, and the Drug Company That Addicted America, said her work is about what happened on the ground, from the perspective of victims and victims. people fighting back.
A dramatization with a comprehensive view of the complex and lengthy problem was overdue, said Macy, a series producer.
It’s hard to capture in an article or even a book, she said. The series covers the past 25 years and presents it in an understandable form: This is what happened to our nation, and why it is still part of the reasons we lost 93,000 people last year in cause of overdoses.
That’s the estimated number of drug overdose deaths in the United States in 2020 and a 29% increase from 2019, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Opioid-related deaths are at an all-time high, reaching 70,000 last year. While some opioid-related deaths over the past two decades have been attributed to OxyContin and other prescription pain relievers, most are due to illicit forms of opioids such as heroin and illegally manufactured fentanyl. .
The series provides context for the series of headlines on Purdue Pharma’s role and its protracted bankruptcy proceedings, Macy said.
Last month, a federal judge gave conditional approval to a settlement that would remove the billionaire Sackler family from Purdue ownership and reorganize the business into a charity with the proceeds going to government-led efforts to prevent and treat the substance addiction.
An increasing number of appeals against these settlements have been filed by states such as California, Maryland and Washington, as well as by some Canadian governments and local entities.
If their bankruptcy did occur, they would be immune to any future litigation, which is viewed by many activists in this field as a great tragedy, Strong said.
In federal bankruptcy court video testimony given in August, Richard Sackler, a former chairman of Purdue, repeatedly said no when asked if he, his family or the company caused the opioid crisis in the country. Other Sackler members have denied any wrongdoing, although their company has twice pleaded guilty to federal crimes for their opioid practices.
Dopesick’s seeds were planted by series producer John Goldwyn, who initially considered making a film about the crisis, Strong said. The story turned out to be too sprawling for a movie but just for television.
Limited editions are really breaking through. They have been at the heart of most cultural conversations with entertainment, he said. You see a lot of great writers working in this space, telling some really interesting stories for several hours. You can go further than in a movie.
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