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HBO Max Sets Cold War Drama ‘Spy/Master’ as CEE Production Winds Down

Production is underway in Romania and Hungary on the new HBO Max Original “Spy/Master,” a spy drama series set during the height of the Cold War that will star British Independent Film Award-nominated actor Alec Secăreanu (“God’s Own Country,” “RUXX”).

The 6 x 50’ series, which was the winner of HBO’s national screenwriting competition in Romania, marks one of the streaming service’s final productions from Central and Eastern Europe.

As Variety first reported in July, parent company Warner Bros. Discovery will no longer produce originals for HBO Max in the Nordics (Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland), Central Europe, the Netherlands and Turkey, and will also remove some content from its platform in order to free up licensing deals elsewhere.

An HBO Max spokesperson confirmed to Variety that the streamer still has several CEE productions in the pipeline that were commissioned before Warner Bros. Discovery announced the shift in its programming strategy for Europe. As with other local HBO Max originals, “Spy/Master” will be available for licensing in territories where the streaming service is yet to roll out.

“Spy/Master” covers a week in the life of fictional character Victor Godeanu (Secăreanu), the right-hand man and closest advisor to Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu. However, Godeanu has a secret: He is also a double agent and must escape Romania and Ceaușescu before his cover is exposed.

With only one shot at staying alive, he uses a diplomatic trip to Germany as a springboard to the States. Helped by an undercover Stasi agent and former flame, played by “Deutschland89’s” Svenja Jung, and an up-and-coming CIA agent, played by Parker Sawyers (“Southside With You”), Godeanu must elude the KGB and his own country’s spooks (Ana Ularu and Laurențiu Bănescu), fully aware that his defection is putting his family back home in mortal danger. 

The series is produced by Proton Cinema and Mobra Films. HBO Max producer Ioanina Pavel said in a statement: “We couldn’t be more excited to tell this story of defection limbo, that spans both sides of the Iron Curtain and has drawn exceptional talent both internationally and from Romania. Although set in the past, we’re hoping this show will ring true to viewers today — whether they’re interested in politics or just fancy a smart, sleek, entertaining ride.”

Johnathan Young, the streamer’s VP of original programming and commissioning editor for CEE, added: “‘Spy/Master’ represents our most international series to date. With predominantly English dialogue this is a proper ‘East meets West’ production from the content to the talent to the setting. While the genre is familiar, the personalities and dilemmas are unexpected and new. We have an amazing team attracted to the project by the way the story sheds light on a subject that feels as fresh today as it ever has been.”

“Spy/Master” is written by Adina Sãdeanu and Kirsten Peters and directed by Christopher Smith (“Temple,” “Alex Rider”), with cinematography by Ben Wheeler BSC (“The Tourist,” “The Baby”) and Ádám Fillenz HCA (“Hier,” “Battle: Freestyle”). Antony Root and Johnathan Young are executive producers for HBO Max. Ioanina Pavel is the creative producer for HBO Max. Viktória Petrányi and Judit Sós are producers for Proton Cinema and Tudor Reu is the producer for Mobra Films.

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