“Dopesick,” an eight-episode limited series for Hulu based on Virginia author Beth Macy’s bestselling book, is now filming around Richmond and will continue through May.
The project is expected to generate over $45 million in direct spending in Virginia, according to the Virginia Film Office.
On Tuesday, “Dopesick” was filming at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in the Museum District. The cast and crew have been filming around Richmond and central Virginia since December. The series has also been filming in Hopewell, Bowling Green and Lexington. The crew will visit Clifton Forge in western Virginia in the weeks ahead.
“Central Virginia is so versatile, it’s a palate that can depict many different locations,” Andy Edmunds, director of the Virginia Film Office, said.
Michael Keaton is starring in the series as Samuel Finnix, a doctor who finds himself entangled with big Pharma.
Macy’s 2018 nonfiction bestseller looks at the corporate origins and devastating effects of the opioid crisis in Appalachia.
Rosario Dawson (“Kids,” “Zombieland: Double Tap”) and Peter Sarsgaard (“Shattered Glass” and “The Magnificent Seven”) are also series regulars, according to industry website Deadline Hollywood.
Screenwriter Danny Strong, co-creator of the Fox music industry drama “Empire,” is the show’s writer, and Barry Levinson (“Good Morning, Vietnam”) is directing. Macy is an executive producer, along with Keaton, Levinson, Strong and others.
Macy was a reporter for The Roanoke Times for more than two decades before leaving in 2014 to write books.
At the beginning of last year, she traveled to Los Angeles to work on the show and co-wrote two of the episodes. Macy said that the series is very much Strong’s project and that the “Empire” writer has his own vision for it, although the themes will be the same as the book.
“It’s about corruption. How this terrible injustice was promulgated on the most marginalized Americans and how this company [Purdue Pharma] got away with doing that,” Macy said.
The Michael Keaton character is fictional, not from the book, based on doctors and people that Macy and Strong met while researching the book and series.
Macy said, “It’s very powerful in a television format. You can see the decisions being made by the regulators and the corporations and how those decisions play out on the ground. My hope is that when people [see the show and] understand in a dramatic way how all this went down, they’ll have more empathy for those people who are suffering from opioid use disorder.”
Currently, Macy is currently working on a book about possible solutions to the opioid crisis.
Macy and the Virginia Film Office were strong proponents of getting “Dopesick” to film in Virginia.
“I gave Danny [Strong] a very impassioned speech about how Virginia deserves this. We’re writing about Virginia. Let’s make it authentic,” Macy said.
Virginia was in competition with North Carolina and Georgia for the Hulu series. Ultimately, the filming went to Virginia for its economic incentives and because the locations impressed the film scout, according to Edmunds.
The production of the show is based in Richmond at an undisclosed 250,000-square-foot warehouse.
Macy also wrote “Factory Man” (2014), which has been optioned by Tom Hanks; and “Truevine,” (2016), which has been optioned by Leonardo DiCaprio. All three of her books are set in part in western Virginia.
“Swagger,” a series about youth basketball based on the life of NBA star Kevin Durant, is also filming around Richmond and central Virginia. It will be here through the summer.
AMC’s “The Walking Dead: World Beyond” will start filming in the Richmond area for its second and final season.
Together, the three shows represent over $120 million in direct spending in Virginia, according to Edmunds.