The series on the opioid crisis in the US will see the Saudi-born actress play a pharma representative.
Netflix has lined up the cast for its limited series Painkiller, which centres around the opioid epidemic. Saudi-born actress Dina Shihabi, a former student of Dubai’s Ductac Chaloub Dance Studio, will play a major role in the forthcoming series.
Uzo Aduba and Matthew Broderick will star in the six-episode series, which will dramatise the origins of the crisis with a focus on Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin. The cast also includes West Duchovny and John Rothman.
Patrick Radden Keefe’s New Yorker article The Family That Built an Empire of Pain and Barry Meier’s book Pain Killer: An Empire of Deceit and the Origin of America’s Opioid Epidemic serve as source material for the series. Keefe and Meier are both acting as consultants on the show.
Shihabi, who describes herself as “multi-ethnic Arab/European” was born in Riyadh to Saudi-Norwegian journalist and political commentator Ali Shihabi and his wife Nadia, who’s half-Palestinian and half German-Haitian. Dina herself was raised in Dubai and Beirut after her parents left Saudi.
In Painkiller Shihabi is set to play Britt, a sales rep for Purdue, the big pharma behemoth that is held in some quarters to be a key driver of the wave of opioid addiction which has struck the US in recent years. The company has faced numerous lawsuits over a number of its products with allegations including bribing doctors to prescribe its medicines, mislabelling, and failing to disclose the highly addictive nature of its products. The company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2019, although in March of this year a bill that would deny Purdue’s ruling Sackler family legal immunity following the company’s bankruptcy was introduced.
Shihabi will line up in the new drama alongside Matthew Broderick as billionaire Purdue owner and senior executive Richard Sackler, John Rothman as co-owner Mortimer Sackler, and Uzo Aduba as Edie, an investigator leading the case against Purdue. Rothman is also overseeing the project as part of his long-term deal with Netflix.
Shihabi moved to New York at 18, where she became the first woman born in the Middle East to be accepted to both the Juilliard and NYU Graduate Acting programmes. Shihabi first came to prominence with her role as Hanin, the wife of the lead villain in Amazon’s 2018 adaptation of Jack Ryan, starring John Krasinski.
Painkiller will begin shooting its six episodes in Toronto later this year, with a release date yet to be confirmed.
Eric Newman is executive producing Painkiller via his overall deal at Netflix. Peter Berg will direct all six episodes and exec produce along with writers and showrunners Micah Fitzerman-Blue and Noah Harpster and Alex Gibney.