‘Queen of the South’ Showrunner Ben Lobato Boards Fabula-Fremantle Mexico Project ‘Hot Sur’ (EXCLUSIVE)

Ben Lobato, co-showrunner of Alice Braga-starrer “Queen of the South,” a top-three Nielsen ratings performer for USA Network, has boarded “Hot Sur,” a fast-moving thriller set up at Pablo and Juan de Dios Larraín’s Fabula and at Fremantle Mexico, the burgeoning Mexican production hub of the global production-distribution giant.

Lobato will showrun the TV series, which will be helmed by Gabriel Ripstein, writer-director of acclaimed Mexican Amazon Original “An Unknown Enemy.”

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Shaping up as one of the biggest new projects being brought on the market at Content Americas, “Hot Sur” will be presented at Content Americas Copro Pitch on Tuesday, one of the TV market and forum’s industry centerpieces.

In it, Maria Paz, an undocumented Mexican immigrant looking after her bipolar sister, becomes a fugitive after being falsely accused of murder. Hunted by a determined U.S. Marshal  – also Latinx – and María Paz’s vengeful former lover, she must navigate a treacherous path to clear her name and protect her family.

“‘Hot Sur’ is a propulsive series, full of surprising twists and a heart as big as our hero. In a world of prejudice, murder and corruption, María Paz refuses to be a victim, rising like a Phoenix from the ashes of her American dream, she takes matters into her own hands,” Lobato told Variety.

“At Fabula, we aim to tell honest stories through quality storytelling. Hot Sur has all these elements and, at the same time, portrays a powerful Latina character that has the potential of becoming an icon,” added Juan de Dios Larraín.

Produced by Larrain and Manuel Marti at Fremantle Mexico, “Hot Sur“ looks like a significant swing for Mexico’s Holy Grail; the elusive U.S. Hispanic market, depicting different iterations of immigration in the U.S. and the current status of the American Dream. Steered by Lobato, one of the few Mexican-American showrunners working today, “Hot Sur” also weighs in as a cliche busting thriller.

“Latinx people make up nearly 19% of the U.S. population but have speaking roles in only 4.9% of U.S: movies and shows. Of that 4.9%, more than half portray Latinx characters as criminals, and a third as sexualized,” said Marti, Fremantle head of development, Latin America.  

“Hot Sur” seeks to correct these perceptions in drama series targeting Latinx viewers,” he added. “In the series, María Paz is not a criminal, and is sexual not sexualized, and, as she’ll prove, she’s not a victim, she’s a force of nature.”

Initial development was handled by Argentina’s Marcos Osorio Vidal (“The Bronze Garden,” “The Internationals,” “Los Simuladores”) and Virginia Martínez. Development is now being overseen by Lobato, co-showrunner of “Queen of the South” from Season 4 and the only writer who has been on the entire run of the series, which has been USA Network’s No. 1 rated original series among P18-49 and P25-54 and a consistent Top 10 performer for Netflix global audience viewing.

Lobato’s writing credits also include the WGA nominated and Peabody Award winning “Justified,” (FX), “Gang Related” (FOX), “The Unit” (CBS), “The Following” (Fox), “Shades of Blue” (NBC), “Against the Wall” (Lifetime), and Antoine Fuqua’s “Ice” for DirectTV. He also served as a Military Police Officer and a member of the Joint Counter-Narco-Terrorism Task Force.

Producing Michel Franco’s Cannes winner “Chronic,” Ripstein made his directorial debut writing and directing the “understated, astutely gauged“ “600 Miles,” Variety said in its review. It world premiered in Berlin’s Panorama section in 2015, winning the Berlinale’s First Feature Award.   

“Hot Sur” marks the latest result from a fruitful 2019 multi-year first-look deal between Fremantle and Fabula which has already yielded “La Jauría,” “Señorita 89” and “El Refugio.”

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