Multi-award-winning Helen Mirren will play the lead role in the third commission from Sky and HBO’s high-end global drama partnership.
Catherine the Great is a four-part drama that delves into the politically tumultuous and sexually charged court of the most powerful female monarch in history. Catherine wielded supreme power throughout Russia for nearly half of the 18th century – strong-minded, independent, brilliantly intelligent and sexually liberated, she was the definition of the modern woman.
The mini-series, set to start filming later this year, will follow Catherine towards the end of her reign and her passionate affair with Grigory Potemkin. Amid scandal, intrigue and immense conflict, this is a story of obsessive love. Unable to publicly marry and famously promiscuous, they develop a unique and devoted relationship, overcoming their adversaries and together shaping Russia as we know it today.
Catherine the Great, produced by Origin Pictures and New Pictures, will air on Sky Atlantic and TV streaming service NOW TV in the UK and Ireland next year, and on Sky Atlantic in Italy, Germany, Austria and Sky’s recently launched service in Spain. The miniseries will air on HBO in the US and HBO Canada in Canada, through HBO’s output deal with Bell Media.
Helen Mirren said: “I am very excited by the possibility of embodying a woman from history who grabbed and then wielded great power. She rewrote the rules of governance by a woman, and succeeded to the extent of having the word Great attached to her name, Catherine the Great. I am very grateful to have HBO and Sky as partners in this endeavour. There are no other homes on television that bring the support and understanding needed for this kind of project.”
Cameron Roach, commissioning editor for Sky drama, said: “We’re incredibly excited to announce Catherine the Great and our further association with HBO, in what promises to be a definitive landmark drama. The team assembled on the project is truly world class and we look forward to Helen Mirren bringing this remarkable woman to life.”
Kary Antholis, president, HBO miniseries and CINEMAX programming, said: “We are jubilant about having Helen Mirren back on HBO, playing the iconic Russian empress and joining this distinguished team of British filmmakers. This collaboration will, no doubt, result in a truly regal mini-series.”
Written by Nigel Williams (Elizabeth I, Wodehouse in Exile) and directed by BAFTA and Emmy Award-winning Philip Martin (The Crown, Mo, Prime Suspect), Catherine the Great will be executive produced by David M. Thompson (Woman in Gold, Death Comes to Pemberley) for Origin Pictures and Charlie Pattinson (Elizabeth I, The Missing, Skins) for New Pictures, Helen Mirren and Philip Martin. Jules Hussey (Hooten and the Lady) is producing.
It is commissioned by Sky’s director of programmes Zai Bennett, Sky’s head of drama Anne Mensah and commissioning editor for Sky drama, Cameron Roach. Sky Vision will handle distribution rights.
David M. Thompson, executive producer for Origin Pictures, said: “Helen Mirren came to me with the idea for Catherine the Great when we were working with her on Woman in Gold, saying it’s a part she’s always wanted to play. I’m delighted we’re now making the series and indeed we can’t think of anyone better for the role. We’re thrilled with the scripts from Nigel Williams and the drama couldn’t have found a more perfect home than Sky/HBO. We’re really pleased to be collaborating with New Pictures on the show, and look forward to bringing it to fruition.”
Charlie Pattinson, executive producer for New Pictures, said: “We are delighted to be working with Helen Mirren and Nigel Williams again after our previous collaboration on Elizabeth I. Nigel has already brought Catherine the Great and her extraordinary love story with Grigory Potemkin to life on the page and we couldn’t have better partners than Sky Atlantic and HBO and director Philip Martin. Catherine was one of the most powerful and extraordinary women in history. She deserves to be portrayed by an actress as fiercely intelligent and instinctive as Helen Mirren.”
Catherine the Great is the third Sky and HBO project to be greenlit through an international partnership to develop big-scale drama, under a $250m multi-year co-production investment deal announced last year. The first commission from the global partnership was Chernobyl, a dramatisation of the true story of one of the worst man-made catastrophes in history, starring Jared Harris (The Crown, Mad Men), with the second titled Gangs of London (w/t), a fresh and original gangland thriller set to take viewers on an adrenaline-fuelled journey into the hidden heart of the capital. Both shows will be coming exclusively to Sky Atlantic and NOW TV in the UK & Ireland.