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Creative Team On Sky’s ‘Blocco 181’ Mixing Crime and Three-Way Romance

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Gangland warfare and a Romeo and Juliet romance with a twist are the main elements of Sky Studios’ first Italian in-house production ‘Blocco 181,’ which is set against the backdrop of a gritty multi-ethnic Milan that has never appeared on screen before.

The eight-episode show – which launches this week on Sky in the U.K. after making a splash in Italy – is lead-directed by London-based Italian director Giuseppe Capotondi, best known for art-heist thriller “The Burnt Orange Heresy” starring Mick Jagger as a shady art collector.

“It’s a dark fable combining crime, romance, sex, and coming-of-age elements,” said Capotondi who besides directing the series, also co-penned the “Blocco 181” screenplay. Capotondi added that, while rooted in reality, the show’s tone “is closer to a graphic novel than to the type of hyperrealistic series [like Gomorrah] that you can expect from Italy.”

Set on a rundown Milan housing estate known as Blocco 181, where tensions are flaring between rival South American and Italian gangs, the show was inspired by the German series “4 Blocks,” produced by TNT Serie and Wiedemann & Berg, which is about the leaders of a Lebanese drug cartel in Berlin’s edgy Neukölln district.

After seeing “4 Blocks,” Nils Hartmann, EVP Sky Studios Germany and Italy, thought: “we’ve never done something like this set in Milan,” he said. But in commissioning Milan-based Red Joint Film with developing “Blocco 181” he told its creative producer Paolo Vari, of Red Joint, that, unlike “4 Blocks,” besides Milan gangs he also wanted a “Romeo and Juliet” element, which Vari then delivered with a twist. “In this case, it’s a three-way love story, which makes it more timely,” Hartmann said.

The trio at the “Blocco 181” core is made up of Bea, a member of the Salvadoran Misa gang, who is played by Colombian actor Laura Osma (“Crime Diaries,” “El Chapo”); Ludo (Alessandro Piavani) an upper crust Milanese kid who enjoys the thrill of working as a cocaine delivery boy; and Madhi (Andrea Dodero) who comes from a North-African family and is involved with an Italian gang. Though from different social classes, Ludo and Mahdi are as close as brothers. And now, they are both in requited love with Bea.

Despite coming from very different backgrounds, they share a strong bond that challenges the status quo and sees them navigate love, sex, family crime and their personal growth together.

Another other key element of “Blocco 181” is its rap and reggaeton soundtrack and the presence of Italian rapper Salmo who acts as music supervisor and creative producer and also plays the dangerous Snake who is the right-hand man to the drug dealer for whom Ludo works.

Hartmann said he had been trying to get Salmo involved with Sky Italia for a while. After the Italian rap pioneer turned down a spot as a juror on Italy’s “The X-Factor” he managed to get Salmo on board the show by offering him “carte blanche,” says Salmo, in how to play his role, besides creative input in the script and full oversight of the music, including the marketing aspect.

In late May Salmo released a collective “Blocco 181” soundtrack album on the Sony Music label, comprising 11 tracks and involving collaborations with more than twenty prominent Italian rappers, musicians and producers. The album rapidly shot to number one in Italy and briefly made the global top ten list on Spotify.

The show, which is being sold globally by NBCUniversal, was shot in both Italian and Spanish to make it more authentic in depicting the different worlds it shows. Last month it screened at the L.A. Screenings in hopes of scoring sales for the Latin American market.

Courtesy Sky




Gangland warfare and a Romeo and Juliet romance with a twist are the main elements of Sky Studios’ first Italian in-house production ‘Blocco 181,’ which is set against the backdrop of a gritty multi-ethnic Milan that has never appeared on screen before.

The eight-episode show – which launches this week on Sky in the U.K. after making a splash in Italy – is lead-directed by London-based Italian director Giuseppe Capotondi, best known for art-heist thriller “The Burnt Orange Heresy” starring Mick Jagger as a shady art collector.

“It’s a dark fable combining crime, romance, sex, and coming-of-age elements,” said Capotondi who besides directing the series, also co-penned the “Blocco 181” screenplay. Capotondi added that, while rooted in reality, the show’s tone “is closer to a graphic novel than to the type of hyperrealistic series [like Gomorrah] that you can expect from Italy.”

Set on a rundown Milan housing estate known as Blocco 181, where tensions are flaring between rival South American and Italian gangs, the show was inspired by the German series “4 Blocks,” produced by TNT Serie and Wiedemann & Berg, which is about the leaders of a Lebanese drug cartel in Berlin’s edgy Neukölln district.

After seeing “4 Blocks,” Nils Hartmann, EVP Sky Studios Germany and Italy, thought: “we’ve never done something like this set in Milan,” he said. But in commissioning Milan-based Red Joint Film with developing “Blocco 181” he told its creative producer Paolo Vari, of Red Joint, that, unlike “4 Blocks,” besides Milan gangs he also wanted a “Romeo and Juliet” element, which Vari then delivered with a twist. “In this case, it’s a three-way love story, which makes it more timely,” Hartmann said.

The trio at the “Blocco 181” core is made up of Bea, a member of the Salvadoran Misa gang, who is played by Colombian actor Laura Osma (“Crime Diaries,” “El Chapo”); Ludo (Alessandro Piavani) an upper crust Milanese kid who enjoys the thrill of working as a cocaine delivery boy; and Madhi (Andrea Dodero) who comes from a North-African family and is involved with an Italian gang. Though from different social classes, Ludo and Mahdi are as close as brothers. And now, they are both in requited love with Bea.

Despite coming from very different backgrounds, they share a strong bond that challenges the status quo and sees them navigate love, sex, family crime and their personal growth together.

Another other key element of “Blocco 181” is its rap and reggaeton soundtrack and the presence of Italian rapper Salmo who acts as music supervisor and creative producer and also plays the dangerous Snake who is the right-hand man to the drug dealer for whom Ludo works.

Hartmann said he had been trying to get Salmo involved with Sky Italia for a while. After the Italian rap pioneer turned down a spot as a juror on Italy’s “The X-Factor” he managed to get Salmo on board the show by offering him “carte blanche,” says Salmo, in how to play his role, besides creative input in the script and full oversight of the music, including the marketing aspect.

In late May Salmo released a collective “Blocco 181” soundtrack album on the Sony Music label, comprising 11 tracks and involving collaborations with more than twenty prominent Italian rappers, musicians and producers. The album rapidly shot to number one in Italy and briefly made the global top ten list on Spotify.

The show, which is being sold globally by NBCUniversal, was shot in both Italian and Spanish to make it more authentic in depicting the different worlds it shows. Last month it screened at the L.A. Screenings in hopes of scoring sales for the Latin American market.

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Courtesy Sky

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