Friday Feb. 19 marks the return of one of Spain’s most popular global TV hits with Amazon Prime Video, The Mediapro Studio and Atresmedia Studios’ rebooting of “El Internado: Laguna Negra” as “El Internado: Las Cumbres.”
Shot in the historic Monastery of Iratxe in Navarre, the series follows a group of troubled students living and learning in a strict boarding school surrounded by treacherous mountain terrain and mysterious forests. Mixing supernatural elements, horror twists and traditional coming-of-age stories, “Las Cumbres” will look to tick many of the boxes that made “Laguna Negra” a global hit more than a decade ago with its reruns and streams still pulling millions of viewers globally.
The original series was a launchpad for future superstars such as Ana de Armas (“Blade Runner 2049”) and Blanca Suarez (“Cable Girls”) and featured a stable of writing talent that has ushered in Spain’s streaming revolution. Much of the behind-the-scenes talent is back for the reboot, including creator and showrunner Laura Belloso, and several original series actors make cameo appearances as well.
Ahead of the show’s global launch, Variety spoke with Ricardo Carbonero, Prime Video Spain head of content; Laura Fernandez Espeso, CEO at The Mediapro Studio; Sonia Martínez, editorial director at Buendia Estudios; and series creator-showrunner Laura Belloso.
The show is about and will appeal to young people, but were you also thinking about the fans of the original, who are adults now, when you were writing?
Belloso: We always worked with “Laguna Negra” in our minds. The challenge is to move the concept to another stage and create a new story. The original series created an emotional bond between the characters and the viewers thanks to a very addictive plot. With “Las Cumbres” we want to provoke that once again using a fast-paced plot, albeit with a different story, elsewhere and with other characters. The series includes intentional nods for fans, although in “Las Cumbres” we have created another mythology. We built a story with our own DNA, which frequently pays homage to “Laguna Negra.”
There are some fun Easter Eggs in the very first episode of “Las Cumbres” for fans of the original. Where does this series fit in the “El Internado” Cinematic Universe?
Fernandez Espeso: We don’t present this series as a sequel, but as a return to the universe of “El Internado” with a new version in which references remain in terms of the concept and the genre, but which brings new elements and more complex plots. The nod to “Laguna Negra” in the first episode is a tribute and a way to pass the baton to a new generation of performers.
Martínez: Inevitably there are parts of “Laguna Negra” in the DNA of “Las Cumbres,” especially the fact that a group of young people struggle to unmask hidden intentions within a similar environment, but we always wanted this new series to have an identity all its own. New audiences can become fans without having seen the original series.
How did the relationship with Amazon Prime Video come about? What was it like to revisit this linear TV property but for a streamer where, presumably, you have a bit more freedom?
Martínez: It has been a great collaborative effort, especially because of the respect that Amazon Prime Video had for the original work and their desire to generate something new using that history.
Fernández: Working with Amazon Prime Video has been extremely easy. We saw the opportunity to revisit this title and give it a new dimension, both narratively and through production. The relationship also guarantees global reach from day one.
Does that promise of immediate global distribution impact how you develop or produce the series? Were you thinking about a global audience when working on “Las Cumbres”?
Fernández: “Laguna Negra” was a pioneer for its international impact. “Las Cumbres” also tells a story with universal reach, something increasingly common with the advent of streaming. The main difference is that now that global impact will come right from the series’ premiere.
Martínez: When it comes to addressing the development of any fiction today, you must always consider the potential for globality, because one way or another there is a good chance that productions will travel. The universality of emotions available to the genre must be placed at the forefront of any project.
A decade later and backed by a major global player, this show looks and feels bigger. Can you talk about ways that “Las Cumbres” grows on what you did with “Laguna Negra”?
Fernández: It’s a combination of resource advancements in technology. The technical facilities that we use now are much more advanced than what we had in 2007. For example, the boarding school we see in the series, at the top of a cliff, doesn’t really exist. We created it using the Monastery of Iratxe, in Navarra, where the sequences of the courtyard, cloister, etc. are filmed, with the cliff added in post. We also use visual effects and other resources that weren’t available 14 years ago, which all contributes to the series high-end aesthetic.
After big, ambitious period originals like “El Cid” and “Hernán,” does this series open doors to new audiences for Prime Video?
Carbonero: Our goal is to have the best content in all categories and genres so that all our viewers can find and enjoy the series, movies and programs that they most enjoy. “El Internado: Las Cumbres” allows us to offer a great series for younger audiences, among whom we don’t doubt it will be a resounding success. The additional advantage of this new release is that it has also received incredible interest from fans of the franchise that revolutionized Spanish television more than 10 years ago.
“Laguna Negra” was a groundbreaking smash hit that still resonates today, but apart from the success of the original series, what attracted you to this project?
Carbonero: We are thrilled to release a Spanish production of this size worldwide. The international success of “El Internado: La Laguna Negra,” together with the involvement of its creators and the new production’s quality, makes us confident that this series will be a reunion as well as winning over new, young audiences. We hope this will be a new milestone in Spanish fiction.