New Disney+ original series “The Good Mothers,” which provides a fresh female take on the Calabrian mob, marks a case of truly organic collaboration between the U.K. and Italy to ensure that a great story didn’t risk losing an iota of authenticity.
The show, which is competing in the “Berlinale Series” section, depicts the Calabrian mob through the prism of three daring women inside the ‘Ndrangheta organized crime clan who collaborated with a female prosecutor and withstood the consequences of their attempt to escape its iron grip. It is produced by Juliette Howell, Tessa Ross and Harriet Spencer for London’s House Productions, which originated the project, and by Mario Gianani and Lorenzo Gangarossa for Rome’s Wildside, a Fremantle company, which helped to firmly root the story in its Calabrian context.
“Good Mothers” is based on a book by U.K.-based journalist Alex Perry and adapted for the screen by Stephen Butchard (“Bagdad Central,” “The Last Kingdom”). The series is lead-directed by the U.K.’s Julian Jarrold (“The Crown”) and by Italy’s Elisa Amoruso (“Chiara Ferragni: Unposted”).
House Productions’ Juliette Howell first came across this material as a book proposal made by Perry and was taken by the story’s fresh perspective on a world, the Italian mob, that of course is quite familiar but was being presented through a different lens. The characters “Feel like real, sentient, relatable women who have had an utterly understandable desire to break the cycle of violence and corruption that was going to repeat itself and blight the lives of the next generation,” she said.
Initially “Good Mothers” was pitched to the House Productions U.K. team. “But then we all agreed that we should make it in Italian,” Howell pointed out. After looking into several Italian companies to team up with, it immediately became obvious that Wildside, the company behind “My Brilliant Friend” and “The Young Pope,” were the right partners because “We were so creatively aligned on it,” she noted.
For Wildside the task at hand was to help execute the mandate from Disney which was “very bold, first of all in deciding to make it an Italian product, and then in saying: “let’s totally root it in its proper context,” said Wildside chief Mario Gianani.
“We had the screenplays written by Stephen Butchard. But we helped him find the right language and also the way in which people in Calabria talk; the gestures they make,” he added. So the first step was working with Butchard on these details in the writing.
From the outset the idea was to keep the original British director and help Julian Jarrold, who was not familiar with Italian, “initially in the casting, and also with the language.” In this respect it was crucial that Jarrold worked closely from the outset with emerging Italian director Elisa Amoruso who was able to guide him when the language barrier would have otherwise gotten in the way.
“It was a big adaptation job both for the screenwriter and the lead director,” says Gianani.