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The Penguin (TV series)

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The Penguin
Official logo
Genre
Created byLauren LeFranc
Based on
ShowrunnerLauren LeFranc
Starring
Country of originUnited States
Original languageEnglish
Production
Executive producers
Production locationNew York
CinematographyDarran Tiernan
EditorAndy Keir
Production companies
Original release
NetworkHBO

The Penguin is an upcoming American crime drama television limited series created by Lauren LeFranc for HBO. Based on the DC Comics character Penguin, it is a spin-off from the film The Batman (2022) that explores the Penguin's rise to power in Gotham City's criminal underworld. LeFranc serves as the showrunner of the series, which is produced by DC Studios in association with Warner Bros. Television.

Colin Farrell stars as the Penguin, reprising his role from The Batman, alongside Cristin Milioti and Rhenzy Feliz. Development was underway by September 2021, with LeFranc attached as writer, and Farrell was set to reprise his role later that year. HBO Max ordered the series in March 2022, after The Batman was released, and that film's director Matt Reeves supervised the writing and was involved in hiring the creative team. Craig Zobel joined to direct the first three episodes in October, with Helen Shaver also directing. Filming began in March 2023, taking place throughout New York, but was halted in June by the 2023 Hollywood labor disputes. Production resumed in late November and concluded in February 2024. The series moved from HBO Max's successor Max to HBO in July 2024.

The Penguin is scheduled to premiere in the United States on HBO on September 19, 2024, and is set to consist of eight episodes.

Premise[edit]

Set one week after the events of The Batman (2022),[1] the series explores the rise to power of Oswald "Oz" Cobblepot / Penguin in Gotham City's criminal underworld.[2]

Cast and characters[edit]

Main[edit]

Recurring[edit]

Actors cast in undisclosed roles include François Chau, David H. Holmes,[11] Craig Walker,[12] Jared Abrahamson,[13] and Mark Strong.[14]

Episodes[edit]

No.TitleDirected byWritten by [15]Original air dateU.S. viewers
(millions)
1TBACraig Zobel[16]Lauren LeFrancSeptember 19, 2024 (2024-09-19)[17]TBD
2TBACraig Zobel[16]Erika L. Johnson2024 (2024)TBD
3TBACraig Zobel[7]Noelle Valdivia2024 (2024)TBD
4TBATBDJohn McCutcheon2024 (2024)TBD
5TBATBDBreannah Gibson & Shaye Ogbonna2024 (2024)TBD
6TBATBDNick Towne2024 (2024)TBD
7TBATBDVladimir Cvetko2024 (2024)TBD
8TBATBDLauren LeFranc2024 (2024)TBD

Helen Shaver also served as a director.[18][19]

Production[edit]

Development[edit]

By September 2021, HBO Max was in early development on a spin-off series from the film The Batman (2022) focusing on the character Oswald "Oz" Cobblepot / Penguin.[2] The Batman director Matt Reeves had suggested to studio executives that a sequel film could explore the Penguin further, but they wanted to use the idea for a spin-off series instead.[20] Lauren LeFranc was hired to write the series, while Reeves and The Batman producer Dylan Clark were set as executive producers through their respective production companies 6th & Idaho and Dylan Clark Productions. They had previously begun development on another spin-off series focused on the Gotham City Police Department,[2] but by early March 2022 that series had been put on hold in favor of spin-offs focused on existing comic book characters;[21][22] of these, the Penguin series was the furthest along in development at that time.[20] Reeves was unsure then whether he would be directing the series,[20] which he said would come before a sequel to The Batman and could tie into that potential second film.[21] Soon after, following The Batman's release, the limited series received a straight-to-series order from HBO Max using the working title The Penguin, with LeFranc confirmed to serve as showrunner and executive producer. 6th & Idaho's Daniel Pipski and Adam Kassan were also set as executive producers, along with Rafi Crohn as a co-executive producer.[23] Star Colin Farrell said in July that Reeves would not be directing the series but was providing guidance on the structure of the scripts and was involved in choosing who would direct them.[24] In October, Craig Zobel was hired to direct the first three episodes of the series and to serve as an executive producer.[16][7][25]

After James Gunn and Peter Safran became the co-CEOs of DC Studios in November 2022,[26] future projects for Reeves's The Batman shared universe were set to be overseen by that studio. Gunn had contacted Reeves about his projects by then.[27] When announcing the first projects for the new DC franchise the DC Universe (DCU) in January 2023, Gunn said any project that did not fit into the DCU's shared universe would be labeled as "DC Elseworlds" moving forward. This is the same as how DC Comics uses the Elseworlds imprint to mark comic books that are separate from the main continuity.[28] Reeves' Batman shared universe was set to be a part of this label,[28][29] including The Penguin.[28][29] Bill Carraro was set as an executive producer by the following month.[7] The series consists of eight episodes,[30] totaling approximately six-to-eight hours of content.[1] Farrell felt this length would provide time to explore Oz's origin story and would allow the series to be "endlessly fun", fascinating, and brutal, as it was intended to have a more mature interpretation;[31] the series was ultimately confirmed to receive a TV-MA rating by the TV Parental Guidelines.[32] In April 2023, the series was officially titled The Penguin and announced to be releasing on the streaming service Max, the successor to HBO Max.[33][34] In December 2023, Helen Shaver was revealed to also be serving as a director.[18][19]

Writing[edit]

The series begins one week after the events of The Batman, following the flooding of Gotham City as depicted at the end of the film,[1] which Farrell said made for a "very tricky, very dark story".[35] The series occurs shortly before the events of the film's sequel The Batman – Part II (2026),[30] establishing a "little fabric" of plans that would lead into the that film.[36] Farrell said the death of crime boss Carmine Falcone in The Batman had left a power vacuum within Gotham's criminal underworld, resulting in many different forces vying for power. He added the series would be "incredibly violent" and that Oz would face "extraordinary obstacles".[37] Clark said it would show Oz's rise to power and compared the series to Scarface (1983). He added that the series was intended to be a standalone story from The Batman, and would enhance the experience of watching the film.[38] Reeves cited The Long Good Friday (1980) as an additional influence, and said the series was about the American Dream, with Oz being "underestimated... nobody thinks he's capable of doing anything [but he] believes in himself with a visceral violence".[21] Sarah Aubrey, the head of originals for HBO Max, said the goal for the series was to explore Oz's life that is rooted in the streets of Gotham and described him as "a hustler and a strategist with his own ambitions".[30]

LeFranc, Erika L. Johnson, Noelle Valdivia, John McCutcheon, Breannah Gibson, Shaye Ogbonna, Nick Towne, and Vladimir Cvetko wrote episodes of the series.[15] LeFranc had written the pilot script by early March 2022. She was then working on the remaining episodes,[21][1] when the story for the first season had been finished.[21] Farrell read the first episode by mid-October 2022 and called it tasty and unusual, and was excited to further explore the "bang up of Oz" that Reeves envisioned for the character. He was set to read the second and third episodes the following week.[1] The scripts were completed by the start of May 2023.[39]

Casting[edit]

By the time development was revealed to be underway on the series in September 2021, Farrell had been approached about reprising his role as the Penguin from The Batman, but was not contractually obligated to reprise the role.[2] By December, Farrell officially signed on to star in the series and serve as an executive producer on it.[3] He described working with LeFranc as a similarly collaborative experience to working with Reeves on The Batman.[35] In March 2022, Reeves said there was potential for other characters from the film to appear in the series.[21] At the end of October, Cristin Milioti was cast as the female lead Sofia Falcone.[5] In February 2023, Rhenzy Feliz was cast as Victor Aguilar, a lead role which was believed to be a teenager who befriends Cobblepot and becomes his driver.[6][7] Later that month, Michael Kelly, Shohreh Aghdashloo, and Deirdre O'Connell were respectively cast as Johnny Vitti,[40][8] Nadia Maroni, and Francis Cobb.[6][40]

In March 2023, Clancy Brown, Michael Zegen, James Madio, Scott Cohen, and Theo Rossi were respectively cast to recur as Salvatore Maroni,[9] Alberto Falcone, Milos Grapa, Luca Falcone, and Dr. Julian Rush.[10][6][41] Maroni was portrayed by an uncredited extra in The Batman.[42] Carmen Ejogo, François Chau, and David H. Holmes were cast in recurring roles in April,[11] with Ejogo playing Eve Karlo,[6] while Craig Walker was revealed to have joined the series by November 2023.[12] In January 2024, Jared Abrahamson was cast in an undisclosed "key" recurring role,[13] and Mark Strong, who portrayed Thaddeus Sivana in the DC Extended Universe (DCEU), was revealed in May to be appearing in the series.[14]

Robert Pattinson was reported in February 2023 to be reprising his role as Bruce Wayne from The Batman in the series, although it was unclear if the character would appear as Batman or not.[43] The following month, Gunn debunked speculation that the rights to prior Batman television series could prevent the Batman character from appearing in this series.[44] Pattinson's appearance was reaffirmed in June 2024, when he was expected to appear in at least one episode.[45]

Design[edit]

Farrell said in February 2022 that Mike Marino, the makeup designer for The Batman, would return for the series,[4] and he felt the makeup was subtly perfected more, allowing for him to freely explore beyond his facial features.[35] Helen Huang served as the costume designer,[46] and Kalina Ivanov served as the production designer.[47]

Filming[edit]

Principal photography began on March 1, 2023,[48][49] in New York City,[50] using the working title Boss.[49] Darran Tiernan served as the cinematographer for the three episodes directed by Zobel.[51][52] Soundstage work occurred at Silvercup Studios North in Queens.[53][46] Filming was set to take place in Westchester County, New York on May 16 when picketers participating in the 2023 Writers Guild of America strike caused production to shut down for the day. After further picketing the following day at the series' sets at a church in Harlem, Manhattan, and at Silvercup North that once again shut down filming, production was paused through May 18. Filming of smaller scenes took place the day after in Brooklyn.[53] In June, production was suspended until after the strike concluded.[54] Filming had been expected to occur over five or six months,[55] and Kelly had one day left of filming to complete before filming was shut down.[8] The writers' strike ended in late September 2023,[56] while the concurrent 2023 SAG-AFTRA strike ended on November 9. At that time, filming on the series was set to resume at the end of the month, and it was considered to be a priority for Warner Bros.[57][58] Filming resumed on November 27, in the Bronx and took place at Whitestone, Queens the following day.[59] Kelly had completed filming his scenes by January 2024,[60] and filming wrapped on February 17.[47]

Post-production[edit]

Andy Keir is an editor on the series.[61][third-party source needed]

Marketing[edit]

The first footage from the series' production was released on April 12, 2023, during the Max Day press event.[33][62] Anthony D'Alessandro of Deadline Hollywood said the footage had "the look of a dark Sopranos, with Farrell playing a full-on crime boss",[33] while Matt Patches at Polygon also highlighted the Sopranos energy and noted it continued to use the "dark, orange-washed aesthetic" from The Batman.[63] Ryan Scott of /Film said the teaser, which combined the series' footage with behind-the-scenes work, was "shockingly put together" given filming had only recently begun then and that it looked like a "very gritty crime drama". He also noted the teaser billed the series as "the next chapter in The Batman saga".[64] Andy Behbakht for Screen Rant said it would be "fascinating to see how" the series was executed with the Penguin being the lead, given there had not been a previous Batman-related series headlined by a particular villain.[65] New footage was included in a teaser for Max's 2024 content line-up in December 2023.[66]

The first trailer was screened on March 21, 2024, for a world premiere at the Series Mania television festival in Lille, France,[67] and it was released online as a teaser trailer the following day. D'Alessandro noted that the Penguin's "philosophical proclamations and tall tales of yore" in the trailer paid homage to Tony Soprano from The Sopranos,[68] while Aaron Couch of The Hollywood Reporter likened the trailer to "DC's answer to The Sopranos".[69] Mark Hughes at Forbes also compared the trailer's vibe to that of The Sopranos and Scarface and noted it maintained the noir aesthetic from The Batman.[70] A second trailer was released on June 20, 2024. James Hibberd at The Hollywood Reporter noted it included scenes that directly picked up after the ending of The Batman and that it provided a "much more expansive look" at the characters and setting.[6] D'Alessandro acknowledged that the trailer explored the aftermath of Batman's actions from The Batman and highlighted Milioti's Sofia Falcone as being "front and center" in the trailer, calling her a femme fatale who was "not entirely evil" and compared her to similar characters in Batman media released since Tim Burton's Batman Returns (1992), which featured Michelle Pfeiffer's Catwoman in that role.[71] Collider's Erick Massoto noted it depicted the Penguin's strategy to become the Gotham crime boss by exploiting the grief of Falcone's family.[72] Meanwhile, Sandy Schaefer of /Film thought Milloti's performance "may just be the show's secret weapon" and agreed it was tonally similar to The Batman.[73]

Release[edit]

The Penguin is scheduled to premiere in the United States on HBO on September 19, 2024,[17][74] and is set to consist of eight episodes.[30] The series will stream on Max.[74] It was initially planned for a mid-2024 premiere but was delayed due to the dual Hollywood strikes.[75] In May 2024, Sky Group acquired the broadcast rights to The Penguin in selected European countries where Max does not yet operate, with the series set to air day-and-date on Sky Atlantic and Sky's streaming service Now.[76] In June 2024, after WBD had shifted many of its planned big-budget Max series based on their intellectual properties to instead be HBO originals beginning in 2025, HBO and Max content CEO Casey Bloys said The Penguin was an "obvious fit as an HBO Original" but could not be altered to such because they had already begun the process of licensing it internationally with the Max label.[77] The following month, the series was moved to debut on HBO after the branding was renegotiated.[74]

References[edit]

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