Freeform is readying its first-ever period drama, Cleopatra, from Quantico and Code Black executive producer Michael Seitzman, former CBS head of drama Christina Davis, Lorenzo di Bonaventura and ABC Signature. The project has assembled a writers room to work on scripts and is in the process of hiring a casting director and line producer in anticipation of a formal green light.
Written by Seitzman, Cleopatra is described as an epic, female-centric adventure series following the life of the most beloved ruler in Egyptian history. After being exiled as a young woman, Cleopatra decides to stand up against the patriarchy and fight back for her freedom and rightful place as heir. This tale will follow her rise and transition to becoming not only the first, last and only female pharaoh, but also the world’s most powerful person — all while engaging in a classic love triangle that changed the map of the world forever.
“Our show is an adventure story that centers on a young Cleopatra during the period of her life when she was exiled by her own brother and forced to be a scrappy outsider forging shaky alliances and acquiring powerful enemies, including the gods and monsters of Egyptian mythology vying for supremacy over the human race,” Seitzman said. “It’s also a love story about a young woman caught between two men, the fierce General Julius Caesar and his protege, the young, rebellious Centurion Marc Antony.”
Seitzman, di Bonaventura and ABC Studios originally sold a Cleopatra series 5 1/2 years ago to NBC with a put pilot commitment. It is being redeveloped for Freeform.
“Seitzman has done a stunning job of freeing Cleopatra from the boundaries of past productions and delivered on the true and vibrant real history of Cleopatra,” di Bonaventura said.
Sietzman and Davis executive produce through their ABC Studios-based Maniac Prods. alongside di Bonaventura, Daniel McDermott and Mike Weiss.
This marks the first series order for Maniac Prods. since the company’s launch last fall.
“Cleopatra is a force of nature and a pioneer for female empowerment,” Davis said. “It’s truly exciting to deliver such a young, sexy, rebellious character to the Freeform audience.”
Cleopatra is one of the most popular figures in ancient history. The last pharaoh of Ancient Egypt, she is known mostly for her beauty and her liaisons with Rome’s Julius Caesar and Marc Antony and her tragic suicide that was followed by the fall of Egypt, which became a Roman province. There have been numerous screen adaptations of her story, most notably the 1963 movie starring Elizabeth Taylor. There is also a long-in-development Cleopatra movie at Sony with Amy Pascal and Scott Rudin producing. Surprisingly, there have not been major Cleopatra-centered series projects. She was featured as a peripheral character on HBO’s Rome.