Martin Lawrence has been tapped to star in Topic Studios’ reimagined English-language adaptation of the HOT-produced praised Israeli series Nehama. In his first television role in seven years, Lawrence will play the title character in the soon-to-be-titled dark comedy. Lawrence also will produce the U.S. version via his RunTelDat Entertainment production company, alongside 24 Drafts Studio and Topic Studios.
In a competitive situation, Topic Studios acquired the rights to develop an English-language adaptation of Nehama in 2020, with Quan Phung, Topic Studios’ SVP, Original Series, bringing the project to the studio. The original Israeli series was created by Reshef Levi (The Arbitrator) and Tomer Shani (Very Important Person), who also directed it, with Yoav Gross (The Good Cop) producing. Levi, Shani and Gross will partner with an American writer on the adaptation.
The series tells the story of a happily married father of five (Lawrence) who quits his suffocating job in high tech to chase his original love of stand-up comedy. When his wife suddenly dies, he must decide whether he should pursue his dream and risk losing his kids – who are lost without their mother. Hilarious, intelligent, and raw, this series examines what it means to seek pleasure and find comfort in the face of tragedy and tackles the timeless challenge of “wanting to have it all” from a uniquely male perspective, with some twists along the way.
Maria Zuckerman, Quan Phung and Michael Bloom executive produce for Topic Studios; Martin Lawrence, Robert Lawrence and Rae Proctor will executive produce and Stacy Lyles will produce for RunTelDat Entertainment; and Reshef Levi and Yoav Gross will executive produce for 24 Drafts, with Tomer Shani.
The original 10-episode series opened the 2019 CannesSeries Festival, winning the Best Performance Award for its creator and star Reshef Levi, and went on to win two Israeli Emmy Awards in 2019, including Best Comedy Series.
In talking about the idea to feature a contemporary African American family in the adaptation, Lawrence said, “Nehama has heart and real-life complications that drew me to the project. I am looking forward to getting back to TV and this is a perfect fit.”
“We’re so thrilled that the iconic Martin Lawrence will reimagine Nehama with us,” said Maria Zuckerman, President of Topic Studios. “Just as Reshef Levi hilariously embodied the original namesake character’s pathos and idiosyncrasies, we can’t wait to see where Martin’s immense talent and the creative team take the character in exploring fatherhood and what it takes to lead a fulfilling life.”
“We created the original Nehama series about our love of comedy, storytelling, and our admiration of our wives,” said Reshef Levi and Yoav Gross of 24 Drafts. “After HOT initially recognized the huge potential, we thought nothing bigger could happen. But now when a great master like Martin Lawrence wants to work with us on a new U.S. version with Topic Studios – we feel blessed to have this dream come true. We’re sure that this new multi-cultural collaboration will make an even better series.”
The Nehama adaptation marks a rare series regular role for Lawrence, his first TV gig since the 2014 FX sitcom Partners, in which he starred opposite Kelsey Grammer. Before that, Lawrence headlined his popular comedy series Martin which ran from 1992-1997 and earned Lawrence two NAACP Image Awards as Best Actor in a Comedy Series and won Best Comedy Series twice.
Topic Studios has been ramping up its scripted television division. It has partnered with Amazon Studios to develop the Untitled Vincent Chin Project, a limited series created by Marilyn Fu with Destin Daniel Cretton attached to direct. It also and has two dramas stemming from the studio’s previous first-look deal with Tracy Oliver, including the adult thriller Savannah with PKM Productions for Amazon Studios. Topic Studios is producing HBO surfing series 100 Foot Wave , with has been renewed for a second season, and is one of the studios behind the three-part documentary series, Nuclear Family, directed by Ry Russo-Young, also on HBO.