It’s hard to find a more beautiful and glamorous location to shoot than the Côte d’Azur in the south of France, but new drama Riviera aims to expose its dark underbelly
Cannes and the Côte d’Azur are synonymous with the international television industry through the MIPTV and MIPCOM events, but they have rarely been used as the backdrop for an actual TV drama.
That changes with Riviera, which follows Hollywood actress Julia Stiles (the Bourne films) as a resourceful, fish-out-of-water American, Georgina, who decides to investigate the region’s underbelly of rich plutocrats and oligarchs, luxury and moral ambiguity after the death of her wealthy European husband on the yacht of a Russian billionaire.
“Riviera is about the idea of going down a rabbit hole,” says producer Kris Thykier. “Julia’s character is not of this world; she is an American who through love of art became an art curator’s wife. After he is murdered, she decides to find out what happened to him and who he really is. It’s a voyage of discovery.”
Stiles herself has said filming Riviera was “such an experience”, resulting in a series “driven by a number of powerful female characters”.
“What was important in finding our Georgina was that, in a world where people may hide things and could be morally bankrupt, she is someone relatable with natural integrity, sitting in the middle,” says Thykier.
Joining Stiles onscreen are Adrian Lester (Undercover), who also directs two episodes, dealer Iwan Rheon (Game of Thrones) and Dimitri Leonidas (The Monuments Men) as the sons of Stiles’ dead husband, and others including Lena Olin, Roxane Duran, Amr Waked and Igal Naor.
The series comes from writer and director Neil Jordan (The Borgias), who developed the series from an idea former U2 manager and film producer Paul McGuinness had been envisaging for many years. Booker Prize winner John Banville is co-writer. “Paul has had a house in the French Riviera for 20 years,” says Thykier. “He approached me about three-and-a-half years ago with the concept, as he thought there was something in that world that hadn’t been touched in a long time.”
The shooting took place on location, which Thykier says was “a big call”, but one made to represent the area and take advantage of the natural beauty of the sun-drenched promenades, golden sand beaches and classically French hillside villas.
Riviera will air on pay TV operator Sky in the UK, Ireland, Italy, Germany and Austria this year, as part of a major high-end-drama push, reaching a total of 21 million subscribers. French pay TV operator Groupe Altice, making its own push into originals through its Altice Studios arm, became a coproducer in March.
Thykier (Kiss-Ass) is producing the series with his former Archery Pictures partner Liza Marshall (Taboo), who launched Hera TV in January. Primo Productions joins Archery on the production.
Format: Ten-part pay TV drama
Producers: Archery Pictures, Primo Productions
Auspices: Neil Jordan (creator, EP), Liza Marshall (EP), Kris Thykier (EP), Paul McGuinness (EP), Foz Allen (producer), Philipp Kadelbach (lead director), Laurie Rose (director of photography)