EXCLUSIVE: Starz has picked up The White Queen, a 10-episode drama series based on the best-selling historical novels by Philippa Gregory. The pay cable network has brought in former HBO Films president Colin Callender as executive producer for the series, produced by the UK’s Company Pictures. Callender’s duties on White Queen are part of a larger two-year agreement his company Playground has signed with Starz. Under the pact, Callender also will serve as an exec producer on the second season of Starz’s period drama Magic City. It reunites Callender with his former HBO boss Chris Albrecht, now CEO of Starz, and Starz’s managing director of original programming Carmi Zlotnik, a former 20-year HBO veteran. “Carmi and I have worked with Colin for many years, and we are excited to have such a world-class movie and television visionary lending his talents to our Starz series,” Albrecht said.
Set against the backdrop of England’s Wars of the Roses, The White Queen is an adaptation of three books from Gregory’s The Cousins War series: The White Queen, The Red Queen and The Kingmaker’s Daughter.
Max Irons (Red Riding Hood), newcomers Rebecca Ferguson and Faye Marsay, Amanda Hale (The Crimson Petal & The White), James Frain (The Tudors) and Oscar nominee Janet McTeer star in the series, which is slated to premiere on Starz in 2013. Starz has acquired U.S. domestic distribution rights to The White Queen from Company Pictures’ parent company ALL3Media International. It also has picked up worldwide multiplatform rights — with the exception of television rights in the UK, where the series will air on BBC One, and some TV/home video rights in Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg.
White Queen is described as a tale of love and loss, seduction and deception, betrayal and murder woven through the stories of three different yet equally driven women caught up in the ongoing conflict for the throne: Elizabeth Woodville, Margaret Beaufort and Anne Neville. The year is 1464 and England has been at war for nine years battling over who is the rightful King of England — it is a war between two sides of the same family, The House of York and The House of Lancaster, whose heraldic symbols were a white and red rose, respectively, giving the power struggle its name. The House of York’s young and handsome Edward IV (Irons) is crowned King of England with the help of the master manipulator Lord Warwick “The Kingmaker” (Frain). But when Edward falls in love and secretly marries a beautiful young widow, the commoner Elizabeth Woodville (Ferguson), Warwick’s plan for control over the throne comes crashing down around him. Meanwhile, Woodville becomes a queen with the help of her mother Jacquetta (McTeer), a self-proclaimed sorceress. Elizabeth’s most fierce adversary is the staunchly loyal Lancastrian Margaret Beaufort (Hale), a damaged and highly religious woman who would willingly lay down her life to see her young son Henry Tudor take the throne. And then there is Anne Neville (Marsay), Lord Warwick The Kingmaker’s daughter — a pawn in her father’s battle for control who finds her strength and ambition when she takes control of her destiny and marries the King’s younger brother Richard Duke of York (Aneurin Bernard). “The period of England’s Wars of the Roses makes for a sensational historical backdrop as a time fraught with violence, mystery and intrigue,” Zlotnik said.
The cast of The White Queen also includes David Oakes (as George Duke of Clarence), Juliet Aubrey (Countess of Warwick), Eleanor Tomlinson (Isabel Neville), Frances Tomelty (Lady Beauchamp), Michael Maloney (Henry Stafford), Ben Lamb (Anthony Rivers), Hugh Mitchell (Richard Welles), Simon Ginty (John Rivers), Eve Ponsenby (Mary Woodville) and Robert Pugh (Baron Rivers). Lamb is with Luber Roklin and Independent Talent Group.
The White Queen joins three other upcoming period Starz series that are in pre-production: Da Vinci’s Demons, Black Sails and Marco Polo.