EXCLUSIVE: In one of the highest-profile TV projects to come out of post-bankruptcy MGM, the studio has teamed with The Tudors and Camelot masterminds Michael Hirst and Morgan O’Sullivan for Vikings (working title), a drama series about the famous Scandinavian warriors. Hirst, creator of Showtime’s The Tudors and co-creator of Starz’s Camelot, created Vikings and will executive produce with Irish-based producer O’Sullivan and producers/managers Sherry Marsh and Alan Gasmer. The series is eyed to begin production on a 10-episode first season next year at O’Sullivan’s soon-to-open studio facility in Ireland. It will be an Ireland-Canada co-production in the mold of O’Sullivan’s production model for The Tudors and Camelot. MGM, which has been involved in the development of the project, will finance 100% of the cost outside of Canada and Ireland and will distribute the series in the U.S. and internationally. Vikings is considered better suited for cable, and, because of the appetite for big, historic epics on pay TV, a pay cable play appears likely.
The idea for a Viking series started with Marsh, who took it to fellow producer/manager Gasmer. The two pitched it to MGM EVP International TV Distribution Chris Ottinger, who suggested taking the international co-production route and brought in O’Sullivan. O’Sullivan called up frequent collaborator and avid historian Hirst, who turned out to be a Viking buff and had written an unproduced feature script about the famous barbarians years ago. Hirst is working on a bible for the series and is expected to write most or all episodes. (He famously wrote every single episode of The Tudors.) The series will chronicle the Vikings’ exploits as warriors, explorers, builders, merchants, pirates and mercenaries through what is known as the Viking Age of Scandinavian, British and Irish history from the late-8th to the mid-11th century. It will center on Ragnar Lodbrok, one of the most popular Viking heroes, a great commander who briefly ruled Denmark and Sweden and was linked to two shieldmaidens and a queen.