Funny how these things work out. Several years ago, there was a BBC miniseries called “Traffik,” which examined the drug trade and how it affect various sections of the English classes. Then someone in the US got the bright idea to adapt the miniseries into a motion picture for American consumption. It not only was a critical hit, but unexpectedly grossed over $124M and won four Academy Awards.
This being America, we naturally try to extend the shelf life of anything that is remotely successful, no matter how little the new product has to do with the original source material. From the countless Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street sequels to the just announced Gladiator 2, if there’s a way to squeeze one more drop of blood out, Hollywood will find a way to do it.
So it should come as little shock that Studio USA has begun the process of making a six part Traffic miniseries, based on the movie that’s based on the miniseries. Director Steven Soderbergh and writer Steven Gaghan, both who won Oscars for their work on the film, have nothing to do with this miniseries, which will have a completely new storyline and characters. However, some people will be assuaged when they learn that Stephen Hopkins, the one vilified director of crap like Nightmare on Elm Street 5 and Lost In Space who has redeemed himself with his work on the vanguard television series 24, will be producing the miniseries and directed at least the first two episodes.
As with the film, the miniseries will follow three concurrent storylines, with one major character solidifying the action in each section.
Mike McKeown will anchor the first storyline. An agent with the United States Drug Enforcement Agency, Mike is a bright, intuitive, observant man whose current assignment is working in Afghanistan, hoping to undermine the very lucrative poppy trade. Married, with a young son back in the States, Mike can be a real hardball player – because he has to be. His very life is often on the line, and it takes every ounce of his periscope-like wits to stay ahead of the bad guys. His wife Carole is busy moving her family into a new home. Most of the time Carole is an upbeat women, but has been feeling harassed of late, unable to cope when she learns of her husband’s disappearance while on assignment and is unable to get answers from The Department about his fate. Their son Tyler, an atypical young teen unhappy with the recent move as well as his father’s constant assignments that separate them for months at a time, will find himself drawn into the drug trade.
The second story begins with Ben, a Harvard MBA who already has lost a fortune in real estate even though he is just 23. An impetuous young man, Ben is forced to go crawling back to his dad for work, and finds himself in for a real wake-up call as he begins to learn the ins and outs of the garment industry. On the job, he meets and falls fast for Chloe, a jet-setting model who doesn’t want to see Ben get hurt. With her bright smile and working class English accent, Chloe is a confident and seductive risk-taker, who seduces Ben with sex in a hotel elevator the first time they meet. However, she he makes it quite clear to Ben that someone cannot be in the fashion business and have a relationship at the same time, no matter how much you might like someone. Ben’s father, Alex, is a widower who is happy to bring his son aboard the family business, even if he is displeased that his son has lost all of his money.
The final story will follow Shamil, an illegal immigrant from the Middle East who finds work as a taxi driver in Glendale, working for a man named Garabedian. Rattled that the boat his family is on has not very arrived, he queries Garabedian who has no answer for the young man. His investigation of the boat that sunk off the coast of Northern California leads him to conclude that his family may have been on it, and he wants payback. Garabedian uses the taxi company as a cover for the more lucrative trafficking of illegal immigrants, but refuses to accept any of the blame when one of his “packages” doesn’t arrive on time.
Other characters in the various storylines include…
Fazal, an Afghani drug trafficker, is a survivor and an opportunist who has grown up with war. First he fought the Russians, then the Taliban, now he’s not sure how long the Americans will be his allies. Grateful to Mike who intervenes on his behalf and saves his life, Fazal seems willing to work with the DEA agent, eventually offering to lead him to cave full of opium.
Wayne, the captain of a fishing boat. A laconic and shady fellow, he makes more money on the side than he does catching fish. Clearly nervous when a dead man floats to the surface, he makes sure the “floater” is sent back to the ocean floor, warning one of young deck hands not to open his mouth about things that don’t concern him.
Wai Li, a middle man who offers to help out Alex who’s having a shipment problem. He is only too happy to help out a friend.
Trent Delaney, a DEA agent. A toughened and somewhat cynical fellow who’s not so ready to trust Fazel as Mike. He just doesn’t buy Fazel’s story, but nonetheless is willing to let Mike play it out.
Dale, 18 years old and a deck hand on Wayne’s fishing boat. Dale is deeply unnerved when a dead body comes to the surface. Told not to question things, a very disturbed Dale decides to take a dive and see what he can discover.
Yuri, a young heavyset man with a Russian accent, a menacing sort who asks Wayne what happened out at sea. He tells Wayne in no uncertain terms that if Wayne’s crew talks, all of them will be “going for a swim.”
Shooting begins in mid October and continue until late January.
Hopkins’ second season of 24, meanwhile, will find Jack Bauer still grieving for his wife a year and a half later, having quit the counter-terrorism unit. He is pressed back into action by now-President David Palmer, to stop a terrorist threat against Los Angeles– and he will need the aid of his former unit to stop the threat. Several leaks from the series indicate that CTU will be a target of one successful bomb threat and agent-cum-spy Nina Myers will somehow play an integral role to the season’s second half. The second season of 24 premieres on October 29th on FOX.
If you feel you are rightly suitable for one of these roles, please feel free to have your agent contact either the production company or the casting directors.
Director: Stephen Hopkins
Producers: Stephen Hopkins, Ron Hutchinson
Writer: Ron Hutchinson
Casting Directors: Mary Jo Slater and Steve Brooksbank
Distributor: USA Networks