Elena Ferrante’s ‘My Brilliant Friend’ Series to Start Filming for HBO This Summer


Remember how a long time ago it was announced that Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan Novels were being made into a TV series? (Even if you didn’t already know that, you may have already assumed it, given how quickly widely discussed/loved novels — most recently, Hanya Yanagihara’s 2015 novel A Little Life and Colson Whitehead’s 2016 novel The Underground Railroad — get developed as series these days.) The initial news that this was happening was vague: a network wasn’t yet attached, nor were any directors. Now, it has these things, and will, according to a press release from HBO (who, yes, is the lucky U.S. network that nabbed it, alongside Italy’s public broadcasting network, RAI), begin filming this summer in Naples. A premiere is anticipated sometime in 2018, according to Variety.

Thus far, the network has only officially announced the filming of My Brilliant Friend — an 8-part series based on the first novel in Ferrante’s 4-part series. Wildside and Fandango are also producing, as was announced when news of the project first arrived. The adaptation is being developed by the pseudonymous Ferrante herself, along with Francesco Piccolo, Laura Paolucci and Saverio Costanzo.

Casey Bloys, the president of HBO programming, said in a statement:

Through her characters, Elena and Lila, we will witness a lifelong friendship set against the seductive social web of Naples, Italy. An exploration of the complicated intensity of female friendship, these ambitious stories will no doubt resonate with the HBO audience.

RAI’s director general, Antonio Campo Dall’Orto, said:

This is an ambitious project that satisfies many of the public service’s objectives in the field of TV drama. It is Italian and international; it is universal but complex; it is a huge co-production with a global value.

And finally among the list of vocal, involved parties is Lorenzo Mieli, CEO of Wildside, who said:

Producing a series based on the incredible work of Elena Ferrante is an exciting challenge. Through the eyes and lives of two extraordinary friends, her quadrilogy describes 50 years of Italian history, touching on universal themes and feelings.

This last quote is important when considered alongside the first news that was shared about the adaptation. Back in February of last year, when the nascent project was announced, it appeared that all of the novels would be adapted, with 32 episodes altogether, and each 8-episode season encompassing one novel. Though the new press release doesn’t explicitly state that the other novels are coming as well, we can assume that’s likely still the plan going forth, given that Mieli talks about “50 years of Italian history,” and that this first season is, indeed, 8 episodes depicting the events in the first novel; the New York Times’ write up confirms that expanding to all four novels, one per 8-episode season, is ultimately the goal.

HBO’s description — which speaks to the novels as a whole (which Ferrante herself considers a single entity) — likewise indicates that the scope of this project could be intended as much larger than the one season of the first novel:

When the most important friend in her life seems to have disappeared without a trace, Elena Greco, a now-elderly woman immersed in a house full of books, turns on her computer and starts writing the story of their friendship. She met Raffaella Cerullo, whom she has always called Lila, in the first year of primary school in 1950. Set in a dangerous and fascinating Naples, their story thus begins and goes on to cover over 60 years of their lives, trying to describe the mystery of Lila, Elena’s brilliant friend and – in a way – her best friend, her worst enemy.

All 8 episodes will be directed by Costanzo, whose feature directorial credits include Hungry Hearts and Private.

Though few know (for sure, at least) who or where Ferrante really is, she’s kind of everywhere: beyond the novels and the series, there’s also currently a theater adaptation of the Neapolitan Novels in performance (and closing this Sunday) at Kingston’s Rose Theatre.