"I'm all about relationship drama, soapy fun, and twisty turny stories, which is something that I learned to do really well on 'General Hospital' and something that I've been writing for the past decade or more, so I brought all of those elements to 'The Fame Game,'" said Rao, the showrunner and creator.
He was first approached by the streaming giant to create a new series set in India three years ago.
"It's been a long time in the making because of COVID we had a lot of delays, but I was approached by them in 2019 and they asked me if I would consider making a new series for them that was set in India and that's not something that I had ever thought about before," Rao said. "But then when we started talking about it, I realized that it was a really fun opportunity to create something in a world that we've never seen before on American television so I thought that would be really fun."
The series stars Madhuri Dixit as an actress who goes missing. She's not only a movie star, but an actress, wife, and mother who happens to have a lot going on in her life.
"So the lead star, Madhuri Dixit in 'The Fame Game' is arguably the most famous actress in the world, although many folks in the U.S. might not know who she is, she is an icon and a legend in Indian cinema and Bollywood. So she has hundreds of millions of fans all over the world. I have been a fan of hers from afar for 30 years, so it was kind of a dream come true to get a chance to work with her," Rao said.
In fact, he wrote the series just for her!
"I wanted to create a series that would introduce her to global audiences on Netflix, and I just think that she's done such a fantastic job. People all over the world are going to fall in love with her," he said.
The series had an enormous buzz, even before it premiered.
"So the trailer last I checked had 20 million views, which is insane! Because I'm just sitting in my apartment here in New York, which is where I wrote the show, and it's such a solitary experience to write a show and now to put it out to the world and to have millions of people so excited about it, to have people who are binging it in one sitting, which is not something that I ever expected. It's really overwhelming and it's really exciting, it's the power of Netflix I guess," Rao said.
You can expect to be shocked by the ending of season one, and Rao said "the wheels are turning" for a season 2.
"I haven't heard anything yet so I'm waiting for Netflix to make a decision," Rao said. "Hopefully if season one continues to do well we'll have some good news about that."
This show is just the beginning for Rao, his production company, Sri & Company, is based in New York City and already has a slate of four or five shows that are in development for Netflix.
"It feels very vindicating. I've been at this for a very long time and working on shows like 'General Hospital' and being here in New York and being a struggling writer, director, as there are so many of us in the city, and to finally get to Netflix or get a deal from Netflix, it feels like the pinnacle of my career, something that I've been working really hard for, for a long time," he said.
Also really gratifying, is the chance to share his Indian heritage with the world. He was born and raised in the United States, but his parents came to America in the 1960s.
"I've been very much tied to my parents heritage and culture, so I'm excited about melding those two identities and creating shows for American audiences, for global audiences, that have elements of my Indian heritage in them," Rao said. "I just love the idea of people here in America discovering a little bit about Indian culture that they might not be aware of."
As for his parents, they are very proud.
"I think for all immigrant parents, whether you're from India, or East Asia, or Italy or wherever, immigrant parents always want their children to have a stable career and to do something like become a doctor or a lawyer, and I obviously did not go down that path so it was a bit of an adjustment for my parents, but now that 'The Fame Game' is out and it's on Netflix, and people all over the world are watching it, they're super proud and I think they've finally come around to accepting that I'm not going to become a doctor and I'll be just fine in Hollywood," Rao said.
You can watch "The Fame Game" streaming now on Netflix in six different languages, including English.
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