‘High Tides’ Star Willem De Schryver Set by Banijay’s Jonnydepony for Crime Drama ‘I Was a Cop in the 80s,’ Ahead of Göteborg Pitch (EXCLUSIVE) Most Popular Must Read Sign Up for Variety Newsletters More From Our Brands Viral Watch

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Banijay Benelux’s Belgian banner Jonnydepony has set rising star Willem De Schryver from Netflix’s YA hit show” High Tides” (“Knokke Off”) for the title role of “I Was a Cop in the 80s,” ordered by Amazon Prime Netherlands and Flemish streamer Streamz.

The period crime drama in development will be pitched by seasoned showrunner Philippe De Schepper (“Arcadia,” “Missing Persons Unit”), co-writer Bas Adriaensen and producer Helen Perquy (“Tabula Rasa”) as part of a Focus on Flanders at Göteborg’s forthcoming TV Drama Vision (Jan. 30-31). Wim Geudens is directing.

Perquy said that with their new premium show, De Schepper and Adriaensen were keen to depict via a character-driven story, the world of the gendarmerie [Belgium’s former paramilitary police force] in the turbulent 1980s, when the country was shaken by criminal gangs, such as the notorious ‘Brabant Killers’. The gendarmerie’s slack law enforcement measures against the gang behind 28 killings, prompted theories that the military-based police force might have had links to the gang.

“This is not what we tell, but a coming-of age fiction story of young man who fights off the omerta world of a police department. That said, we will tell [a lot of] true events through the show”, said Perquy.

The story follows the rise and fall of a Belgian Gendarme Unit, spearheaded by an American CIA Agent. Initially set up as an anti-drug squad, the group uses illegal techniques of infiltration and entrapment, and turns into criminals themselves, entangled in corruption and drug trafficking. Loyalty and omerta rule among them.

Willem De Schryver plays the young gendarme Jan Laureys, recruited by the American because of his history of drug abuse. First lured into the world of easy money, his sense of judgment and morals reawaken when people start to get hurt.

Jonnydepony co-founders Perquy and De Schepper will be looking for pre-sales and global distribution at TV Drama Vision.

For Perquy, “I Was a Cop in the 80s” is distinctive of the type of value-driven quality shows, powered by her banner. “Our vision is to create big co-productions, based on our own ideas, with stories that are entertaining, but with a message,” she said, citing the shingle’s recent hit “Arcadia,” about democracies under threat, and their co-production with Finland “Transport,” set in the illegal horsemeat business in Europe. 

Although not a Jonnydepony-initiated series, Perquy said she was still keen to board the Finnish crime drama from Tekele Productions, “as the core of the series is set in the horse trade which is huge in Belgium. Plus Miia Haavisto [Tekele’s CEO] and I literally found each other content-wise, as well as on a personal level,” she observed.

As one of the key producers set to talk Nordic/Flemish collaborations in Göteborg, Perquy believes in strengthening the existing ties between the regions. “We see the world and produce in a similar way. We could do so much more together,” she said.



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