Fremantle’s Monster Sets Norwegian Drama ‘The Odesa Wrestlers,’ Co-Created by ‘Vikings’’ Thorbjørn Harr, for Series Mania’s Co-Pro Pitch (EXCLUSIVE)

Fremantle’s Norwegian banner Monster, behind hit TV shows “Exit,” “Furia” and “Pørni,  will be bringing to Series Mania Forum’s Co-Pro Pitching Sessions ‘The Odesa Wrestlers’, which has received development coin from Norwegian pubcaster NRK.

Celebrated Norwegian podcaster Joachim Førsund and star actor Thorbjørn Harr (“Vikings”, “22 July”, “Sex”) are making their debut as co-creators, with Førsund also serving as screenwriter and Harr as episodic director.

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“We’re in discussions with Thorbjørn to play one of the main roles, but nothing is confirmed,” said producer and Monster head of scripted Cathrine Simonsen.

Set in small town Elverum in rural Norway, the story turns on two young Ukrainian refugees and brothers Andriy and Mago as they join a local wrestling team, with the hope to shape a brighter future for themselves. Their remarkable skills and unorthodox methods quickly disrupt the social hierarchy in the club – headed by former world champion Willy –  as well as the local youth community.

“The wrestling arena serves as a mirror to broader global trends of nationalism and segregation,” explained the co-creators. “Through Elverum’s wrestling club, we paint a vivid picture of a rugged, ambitious working-class environment where status is revered. The arrival of the Ukrainian wrestlers from the local asylum centre disrupts this equilibrium, awakening latent xenophobia and threatening established norms.”

Despite the sombre theme, our intent isn’t to craft a grim series, but rather to weave a narrative of hope and reconciliation,” continued Førsund and Harr. “We aspire for viewers to find it thrilling and entertaining yet leave them contemplating insights that resonate deeply. These insights should inspire positive change, encouraging reflection and action in our audience’s lives and the world at large,” they said.

“Right now, it’s more important than ever to create entertaining and emotional stories with a meaning,” added Simonsen, who will be looking for European co-producers and co-financiers at Series Mania Forum Co-Pro Pitching sessions, scheduled for March 19.

While Simonsen anticipates ‘The Odesa Wrestlers’ to start production “hopefully late 2025”, she points out that 2024 will be one of the outfit’s biggest years ever in scripted content.

First out on April 19 on Prime Video Nordics, is “Furia 2”, follow up to the hot political thriller created by Emmy award-winning Giermund Eriksen (“Mammon”), toplining Pål Sverre Hagen, Ine Marie Wilmann and Boryz Szyc. The series, ordered by Viaplay, was recently acquired by Amazon’s Nordic streaming service, as part of a nine-title Viaplay Originals package deal.

Monster’s other highly anticipated TV show “Holmlia Love” inspired by the true story of a racist killing by neo-Nazis in an Oslo suburb, has just started rolling. The six-part drama among the first titles in the New8 Euro pubcasters’ alliance, is handled internationally by Wild Bunch TV.

In a totally different genre, Monster’s first Swedish show “The Scarab Flies at Dusk” produced with Nordic Drama Queens for SVT, is due to start filming in May.

The screen adaptation of Maria Gripe’s children’s literary classic will be helmed by “Afterglow”’s Atle Knudsen. TV2 Norway will handle the Norwegian release and Fifth Season global distribution.

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