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HBO's Parasite Series - What We Know So Far

Bong Joon-ho's critically acclaimed, genre-hopping Parasite has found a new host: HBO. 

The Korean writer and director's dark and twisty dissection of classism and human nature has all but conquered awards season with its nearly 200 U.S. and international honors. And now that the Okja and Mother helmer has certified himself as an icon of modern cinema, it appears he's planning to take his sharply stylistic and morally eviscerating upstairs-downstairs tale to new territory. 

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Bong and HBO executives are currently in talks ⁠— along with Adam McKay, the writer and producer of Vice and the executive producer and director of Succession ⁠— to develop a series based on the director's latest chapter in his decades-deep creative library. As of January 2020, plans are for Bong and McKay to adapt Parasite into a limited series, meaning a capped number of episodes rather than a multi-season project.

While currently unmatched in its western critical and audience adorationParasite isn't the first of Bong's work to get the small-screen treatment. That title goes to his 2013 environmental disaster train-car drama Snowpiercer, which is set to premiere on TNT Sunday, May 31. When it debuts, Snowpiercer will serve as the first real look at what a Bong Joon-ho show can be. But until then, here's everything we know so far about the director and writer's highly anticipated Parasite series.

What's the release date for HBO's Parasite series?

The six-time Oscar-nominated film hasn't just been heralded by critics — it's made history many times over, with Parasite's most recent SAG Award for best ensemble marking the first time a foreign-language film has won that coveted prize. Parasite is also the first Korean film to win the Cannes Film Festival's most esteemed honor, the Palme d'Or, and made a notable showing at the box office, earning nearly $140 million worldwide on an $11 million budget. All of this is why it's no surprise TV and streaming studios wanted to capitalize on Bong's latest success. From its pointed and powerful depictions of class-based violence to its more subtle acknowledgment of the squalor of environmental pollution, Parasite is a film as timely as it is emotionally gripping, making it one of 2019's best movies.

Unfortunately, for those eager to see another chapter in the Korean creative's latest cautionary tale, there will be somewhat of a wait. There's been no confirmation of aa release date for the projects, and early reports indicate that talks around the Parasite series are still in the very beginning stages following HBO's win over Netflix in a "fierce bidding war" for screen rights. That means it could be at least a year before we see the Parasite series. And if the troubles with Snowpiercer are any indication, it might be longer. That series, on which Bong serves as a producer, was ordered to pilot back in November 2016 and is finally premiering in May 2020. While there could be a speedy turnaround on the Parasite series, it seems it'll be arriving later rather than sooner. 

What's the plot of HBO's Parasite series?

The "when" of the Parasite show is still up in the air, and so is the "what." Early responses to the news of a limited series indicated confusion ⁠— and a bit of resistance ⁠— to expanding what many saw as a close-ended tale. 

Parasite follows the increasingly entangled relationship between the impoverished Kim family and the well-to-do Park family after, one-by-one, the Kims begin working in the Parks' picturesque home. Saying more would spoil much of the film's continuously shifting plot, which takes audiences on a journey through a story that's equal parts dark comedy and violent thriller. That succinctness points to both the potential limitations and possibilities of the Parasite series. 

The outcome for both of the film's families is pretty concrete. Still, the issues at the heart of their relationships ⁠— such as greed, discrimination, and disparity ⁠— cast such a broad and evergreen net that delving further into the Parasite universe seems creatively feasible, even if its narrative direction isn't entirely clear as of yet. And it's not, according to the director. Bong told Variety via an interpreter following the Oscar nominations, "When I think of a limited series, I really think of it as an expanded film. Like Ingmar Bergman's Fanny and Alexander, you have a three-hour theatrical version and a three-hour TV version. So my goal is to create a high quality expanded version of Parasite.

So, how might the Parasite series be different from the film? For now, Bong says the show will offer a chance to "explore all the ideas that [he's] had from the scriptwriting stage from what could happen in between the scenes through the TV series."

Who's in the cast of HBO's Parasite series?

On those comments alone, the Parasite series sounds like a chance to explore the crevices of the universe Bong already built with the Kim and Park families. But in that very same interview, the director emphasized that it hasn't been decided who the story will focus on. 

Variety reported that the director was insistent that neither he nor McKay had nailed down whether the TV adaptation would return to South Korea, or be an English-language take set elsewhere. "We're still very much in the early stages," Bong said. "I'll soon meet with Adam to talk about the setup. For now, a lot of things are open." 

In February 2020, the first casting rumors surfaced, with Collider reporting that Mark Ruffalo was in consideration for a leading role on the series. In a statement to Collider, HBO waved off the reports as speculation. "The HBO limited series inspired by Parasite is in the early stages of development, and to speculate on any characters or casting is wildly premature."

Then, during a panel at the 2020 Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo in early March, Ruffalo told the crowd that he is indeed in talks to play a version of Parasite's "father." It was unclear from his remarks exactly which "father" character he was referring to (via Laughing Place).

In any event, the news indicates that HBO may be leaning towards a westernized re-telling of Parasite with an English script. But because so little has been determined about the Parasite series at this time, much of the talk about who might star remains speculation. Bearing in mind Bong's knack for perfect casting in films like MotherOkjaSnowpiercerThe Host, and now Parasite, whoever ends up among the cast will almost certainly be perfect for bringing his dark social commentary to life.