Busy British actor James Norton has been cast as the lead in BBC One’s upcoming epic event series, McMafia. Inspired by Misha Glenny’s bestselling book, the hard-hitting look at global crime and its far reaching influence is created by Hossein Amini (Drive) and James Watkins (The Woman In Black). Deadline previously revealed that the BBC had greenlit the series; Watkins has now confirmed he will direct all eight episodes.

The fast-paced thriller is billed as epic and intimate; glamorous and gritty; global in scale; and forensic in detail. BBC One recently scored a big hit with another globetrotting epic mini in The Night Manager. That series’ David Farr is on the Amini/Watkins-led writing team of McMafia which also includes Peter Harness (Doctor Who, Wallander) and Laurence Coriat (Wonderland, Me Without You). Cuba Pictures is producing.

The story delves into how, with the rise of globalization, the corporate has become criminal and the criminal corporate and how, driven by the global demand for cheap products, everyone is complicit in some way.

Norton (Grantchester, War & Peace, Happy Valley) will play Alex Godman, the English-raised son of Russian exiles with a mafia past. Godman has spent his life trying to escape that shadow, building his own legitimate business and forging a life with his girlfriend. But when his family’s past murderously returns to threaten them, Alex is drawn into the criminal world and forced to confront his values to protect those he loves.

McMafia charts Godman’s journey through a terrifying labyrinth of international criminals, money launderers, corrupt politicians and ruthless intelligence agencies. He soon finds himself embroiled in an underworld that stretches from London to Moscow, Dubai to Mumbai and Africa to the Americas; where Mexican cocaine cartels compete with Pakistani drug lords, Balkan smugglers and the Russian Mafia itself.

This is one that is likely to draw international co-production interest; that will be overseen by BBC Worldwide which is handling sales. Norton is next on the big screen in Joel Hopkins’ indie Hampstead and Sony’s Flatliners remake. He’s repped by The Artists Partnership and UTA.

McMafia is executive produced by Nick Marston, Dixie Linder, Ben Hall and Robyn Slovo for Cuba Pictures; Matthew Read for BBC One; and Amini, Watkins and Glenny.