Mirren also executive produces the project, written by Nigel Williams (Elizabeth I, Wodehouse in Exile) and directed by BAFTA and Emmy winner Philip Martin (The Crown, Mo, Prime Suspect)
Catherine the Great 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.
Produced by Origin Pictures and New Pictures, the miniseries will follow Catherine toward 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.
The project originated with Mirren, who approached Origin Pictures with the idea for Catherine the Great when she was working on the company’s Woman in Gold, saying it’s a part she’d always wanted to play.
“I am very excited by the possibility of embodying a woman from history who grabbed and then wielded great power,” Mirren said. “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 will air on HBO in the U.S. and be distributed to Canada through its output deal with Bell Media. It 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.
David M. Thompson (Woman in Gold, Death Comes to Pemberley) executive produces for Origin Pictures with New Pictures’ Charlie Pattinson (Elizabeth I, The Missing, Skins), Mirren and Philip Martin. Jules Hussey (Hooten and the Lady) is producing.
The series 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.
Mirren won the the 2006 Best Actress Oscar for playing Queen Elizabeth II in Miramax’s The Queen. She also played Elizabeth I in the eponymous miniseries for HBO, winning an Emmy and a Golden Globe.
“We are jubilant about having Helen Mirren back on HBO, playing the iconic Russian empress and joining this distinguished team of British filmmakers,” said Kary Antholis, president, HBO miniseries and Cinemax programming.
Added 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.
Catherine the Great is the third production under HBO and Sky’s drama partnership, joining previous commissions Chernobyl starring Jared Harris and gangland thriller Gangs of London.
Mirren will next be seen in CBS Films’ Winchester, about firearms heiress Sarah Winchester, set for release February 2.