Colin Callender’s Playground Entertainment is developing a scripted comedy drama based on Irish drag queen and gay rights activist Rory O’Neill’s memoir, Panti: Woman In The Making. Playground optioned the book that follows O’Neill’s life and work, performing under the stage name Panti Bliss. O’Neill will star as Panti in the planned series that is set in and around Panti Bar, the Dublin nightclub opened in 2007.
A self-described “accidental activist,” Panti played a central role in Ireland’s legalization of same-sex marriage in 2015, which was chronicled in Conor Horgan’s award-winning documentary The Queen Of Ireland. O’Neill has since toured as Panti with a one-woman stage show, High Heels In Low Places, throughout Ireland and the UK, as well as Sydney, Paris, New York and Sarajevo.
Further details regarding the series are to still to come, however, the book follows O’Neill’s journey to becoming Panti Bliss (“the voice of a brave new nation embracing diversity, all the colors of the rainbow and, most of all, a glamorous attitude”). It is also described as the story of a misfit who turned his difference into a triumphant art form; of coming to terms with HIV; of political activism; of Pantigate, and the famed Abbey Theatre speech.
Pantigate came in the wake of a 2014 appearance by O’Neill on Irish broadcaster RTE’s The Saturday Night Show during which O’Neill alleged that some individuals involved in Irish journalism were homophobic. Legal action and a media maelstrom followed, leading to O’Neill’s Noble Call speech (as Panti) at the Abbey Theatre which went viral ahead of the 2015 vote in favor of marriage equality.
“When I heard about Rory O’Neill’s role in the recent legalization of same-sex marriage in Ireland I had to find out more about him,” says Callender. “Watching his TED talk and his remarkable speech at The Abbey Theatre I was utterly captivated by Rory’s ability to use the persona of Panti Bliss to talk about issues of homophobia, acceptance and tolerance in a bold, funny and very personal way that challenges all our easy preconceptions. Rory is a genuinely unique voice and we’re excited to be working with his alter ego Panti Bliss on a series that will bring her provocative perspective on contemporary culture and the unspoken challenges that face the gay community to a mainstream television audience.”
O’Neill is repped by Kitty Laing and Aoife Rice at United Agents, Faith O’Grady at The Lisa Richards Agency handles all rights relating to Panti: A Woman In The Making.
Wolf Hall producer Playground is currently in production on Kenneth Lonergan’s adaptation of E.M. Forster’s Howards End. Its West End smash stage play, Harry Potter And The Cursed Child, won a record nine Olivier Awards last night.