Dopesick, a drama about how one company triggered the opioid epidemic in America, begins on Hulu Oct. 13. Michael Keaton stars as Samuel Finnix, a doctor who begins to realize his prescriptions in rural Virginia are getting his blue-collar patients addicted.
Danny Strong executive produces alongside Keaton. Strong told B+C he began researching the Sackler family, and “was stunned and shocked and appalled by the criminality, the deception, the lies of Purdue Pharma. The whole thing was so shocking and stunning to me, that a single company could cause a national health crisis. The details of their criminal behavior are just unbelievable.”
Strong said to himself, “People need to see this.”
The limited series is inspired by the book Dopesick by Beth Macy. Other books were influences as well, including Gerald Posner’s Pharma: Greed, Lies, and the Poisoning of America, Barry Meier’s Pain Killer: A ‘Wonder’ Drug’s Trail of Addiction and Dreamland by Sam Quinones.
“A lot of great books had been written on it,” said Strong.
Coming out just before production wrapped was Patrick Radden Keefe’s Empire of Pain: The Secret History of the Sackler Dynasty. “I read it to see if anything needed to be changed,” said Strong. “We were thrilled to see it didn’t.”
The story is set in mining country in southwestern Virginia. Barry Levinson directs the first two episodes and is an executive producer along with Strong, Keaton, John Goldwyn, Warren Littlefield, Beth Macy and Karen Rosenfelt.
In the cast with Keaton are Peter Sarsgaard, Michael Stuhlbarg, Will Poulter, John Hoogenakker, Kaitlyn Dever and Rosario Dawson.
Strong said Keaton nailed his role as a doctor who slowly realizes Purdue Pharma’s talk of its painkillers being non-addictive is fiction.
“I just think his performance is staggering,” he said. “There are so many levels to it and such humanity to the character and so much nuance and depth. The character goes to so many places you don’t expect it to go and Michael just nails it all.”
Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.
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