Production is underway on “How to Fail as a Popstar,” Canadian streamer CBC Gem’s original series based on artist, author and musician Vivek Shraya’s debut theatrical work of the same name.
The theatrical work featured Shraya in a one-person performance, reflecting on the power of pop culture, dreams, disappointments and self-determination.
The eight-episode limited comedy series is described by the producers as being “about a queer brown boy with a huge voice doing everything he can to become a popstar – as told by the queer trans femme that boy becomes, looking back on how and why that dream was never realized.”
The series stars Shraya, Adrian Pavone (“Star Trek: Discovery”) and Chris D’Silva (“Slumberland”) as Vivek at various stages of life. Written by Shraya, the series is directed by Vanessa Matsui (“Midnight at the Paradise”) with Shraya co-directing one episode, with filming to continue in Toronto for three weeks.
The cast also includes Ayesha Mansur Gonsalves (“Sort Of”), Nadine Bhabha (“Letterkenny”), Arwen Humphreys (“Murdoch Mysteries”), Eric Johnson (“Pretty Little Liars”), Matsui (“Ghost BFF”), and introduces Aayushma Sapkota in her first role.
Shraya, whose album “Part-Time Woman” was nominated for the Polaris Music Prize, and music was featured on CBC and HBO Max show “Sort Of,” is the author of the bestselling book “I’m Afraid of Men” and also the founder of publishing imprint VS. Books, which supports emerging BIPOC writers.
The stage play “How to Fail as a Popstar” was written and created by Shraya and directed by Brendan Healy. The original production was commissioned and produced by Canadian Stage, Toronto, Ontario.
The series is produced by Sphere Media with the financial participation of the TELUS Fund, the Bell Fund and the Shaw Rocket Fund. The project was selected as one of the recipients of development support from the CBC Creative Relief Fund, a fund created by CBC to provide immediate support to Canadian creators at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Created by Shraya, executive producers are Bruno Dubé, Jennifer Kawaja, Elise Cousineau, Caroline Habib, Laura Perlmutter, Shraya and Matsui. CBC executives involved in the project include Sally Catto, general manager, entertainment, factual and sports, Trish Williams, executive director, scripted content and Zach Feldberg, acting director of current production, comedy and head of scripted Gem originals.
Matsui said: “I was instantly attracted to Vivek’s distinct voice, and the tightrope that she walks with her words, and I’m honoured that Vivek, Sphere, and the CBC trusted me with this special script. Failure is a theme that resonates deeply with me, and I suspect many of us, so I hope this show encourages us to embrace our failures in the spirit of finding something perhaps more profound than ‘success’ – ourselves.”
Shraya added: “There is very little space to acknowledge and mourn our failures in a culture that is obsessed with success and resilience. I wrote this story because no matter what I achieved, failing as a popstar – however trivial – was the thing that kept me up at night. I’m so grateful to CBC and Sphere for believing in this project and for helping create more space for the conversations we avoid but very much need.”
Feldberg said: “Vivek is a unique talent whose authentic and honest voice shines through her work, regardless of the medium. We’re thrilled to be working with Sphere Media to bring her powerful and relatable story to life on CBC Gem, where she will no doubt find new followers and delight her current fanbase.”
The series will premiere on CBC Gem later in 2023.
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