Audrey Fleurot stars in HIP (High Intellectual Potential), Itinéraire Production’s new police procedural in which the method and order of the police service bumps up against the extraordinary – and disruptive – talents of an investigator with high intellectual potential. Pierre Laugier, Producer, Itinéraires Productions and Nadia Chevallard, Head of International Sales, NewenConnect discuss how the series was crafted and cast and what makes this unusual character and series so endearing.
High potential for a woman with extraordinary powers
Unifrance: Where did you get the idea to create HIP, a series about an apparently normal woman who is actually kind of a genius at resolving mysteries?
Pierre Laugier: The writer Nicolas Jean, with whom we made two other series, The Mantis (TF1, Netflix, 2017) and Flowers of Shadow (France Télévisions, 2018), pitched us the idea of an investigator with high intellectual potential who works with the police. We created the character alongside the writer Alice Chegaray Breugnot, drawing on Hollywood references such as Will Hunting and Erin Brokovitch. We wanted our heroine to be a woman of the people but also pop, glamorous and provocative – strongly anchored within society. It was also important that we void the cliché of the socially awkward genius. The series also pays homage to the crime genre and its extraordinary and highly intelligent investigators, except here we have a female protagonist…
Unifrance: How were these refreshing and colorful characters created?
Pierre Laugier: We quickly realized the high comic potential of the series that could be achieved by pitting the character of Morgane – messy and rebellious – against Karadec, a buttoned-up police officer who is very committed to proper procedure and slightly obsessive. Serious investigations that have emotion and thought are enhanced with comic situations based on our recurring characters, Morgane’s colleagues and also her family. The comedy comes from the opposition of Morgane’s messy personal life and the straight-laced and codified world of the police force.
Unifrance: So, from that point on, was the casting quite obvious?
Pierre Laugier: Even in the very first versions of the scenario, we were aware that the role was very rich and would attract top-level actors. The name Audrey Fleurot came up quite early on during discussions with TF1, and it seemed so natural: she’s a wonderful actress with huge comic potential that has never really been fully tapped. Audrey was immediately interested in the character, and once she agreed to do it, the casting continued with some wonderful actors like Mehdi Nebbou, Marie Denarnaud, Bruno Sanches and Berengère Mac Neese.
Unifrance: The series takes place in Lille. Why did you choose the north as the backdrop for these characters? Do you have any fun anecdotes from the shoot?
Pierre Laugier: The choice to film in Lille was made at the same time as the casting of Audrey, who was a member of the jury at the 2019 Série Mania festival. Lille seemed to be the perfect setting for the character. Lille is both a working-class city, full of history, and a forward-thinking European metropolis. It’s the perfect place for our heroine to live. She’s hard-working and rebellious, and a single mother to three children. She’s a real working class heroine who taps into the town’s collective history and the industrial background of the region. The Hauts de France region also offers us a multitude of settings, landscapes and architecture that are ideal for a crime series of this kind where we discover a new universe in each episode.
Unifrance: What does the future hold for Morgane Alvaro?
Pierre Laugier: Morgane Alvaro has travelled to many countries; she spent September in Italy where the series Morgane, detective geniale was very well received! We are currently producing season two which will be back on TF1 next spring. Season three is in the writing stage and still wrestling with the same concerns: will Morgane ever really integrate into the police force and deal with her authority issues in all their forms? Is it Morgane who needs to change her attitude or the world that needs to change? We are also going to meet a new character, an Internal Affairs investigator tasked with evaluating to what extent Morgane is an asset or a liability to the police. Chief Karadec is far from indifferent to the charms of a policewoman who is, in many ways, a lot like him.
Unifrance: Why did you choose to include HIP in your catalog? What makes it different?
Nadia Chevallard: Police procedurals headed by strong female characters are a centerpiece of Newen Connect’s distribution (Profiling, Candice Renoir), and when we read the first scripts, we were instantly struck by the originality and strength of the main character, Morgane, a kind of French Erin Brockovich is life-enhancing, extravagant, rebellious and without filter. HIP is rooted in the codes of the police procedural with solid investigations that are wrapped up at the end of each episode but it also has the momentum and freshness of a new genre thanks to its extraordinary female lead.
UniFrance: You were clearly right – look at the success of the series on TV!
Nadia Chevallard: Yes, HIP launched on TF1 on April 29, 2021, in a prime-time slot and has seen phenomenal success and immediate support from the French public. It has had the best average audience figures for a French series since 2005 with 11.5 million viewers, and the best average for the 15-49 age range since 2005, with 52% audience share and up to 2.4 million more viewers thanks to replay (which is the best replay statistic ever – across all channels and programs)!
Unifrance: How have international buyers reacted?
Nadia Chevallard: The international market has reacted incredibly well to HIP, and the majority of our international broadcast partners got on board early – mostly before the broadcast on TF1 , which is rare. Today, it has been sold in more than 50 countries, in particular Italy (RAI1), Spain (ANTENA 3), Portugal (SONY), Poland (FOX), the Netherlands (NPO), Latin America and Brazil (A&E), Germany (NDR) and Canada (QUEBECOR).
The first international broadcast was in Italy. HIP has gone out at prime time on Tuesdays on RAI1 since 14 September. It’s the first French series to be broadcast by RAI1 so the stakes are high for us all, and we worked closely with RAI1 to support them in terms of marketing and promotion ahead of the broadcast. The Italian press has been lyrical in their praise, even the very demanding and influential daily national La Repubblica! So, for the last two weeks, HIP has topped the charts in terms of audience figures on Tuesday prime time, with an average of 20.6% audience share with 4,476,000 viewers tuning in for the first episode.