Anglo-French drama Versailles debuts Stateside on Ovation TV tomorrow night (October 1) at 10 PM with a two-hour opener. The English-language series from Canal+ Création covers the first years in power of the young Louis XIV (Vikings‘ George Blagden) and was a big ratings hit for France’s Canal Plus when it began airing in November 2015. In a rare move for a foreign TV production, cast and creators gathered at the French Embassy in Washington DC this week for a splashy U.S. premiere. Check out the U.S. trailer below.
Created by Simon Mirren (Criminal Minds, Without A Trace) and David Wolstencroft, (Spooks, The Escape Artist), Versailles was filmed on location at the real palace outside Paris. With a 30M euro budget, the epic 10-part series is the most expensive drama ever produced in France. Making it in English was a strategic move that opens it up to wider audiences.
The series took on cultural phenomenon status during its French run and, in a first, was renewed for a second season even before the initial season started. Zodiak Rights sold out worldwide including to BBC Two where a June 2016 bow drew 1.8M viewers.
Ovation has engaged in a big social media push and is promoting the series with vignettes about the backstory of the period. That includes experiential events in New York tied to costume design and how it relates to current fashion. The first two episodes were directed by Yves Saint Laurent helmer Jalil Lespert. A significant sponsor is Fiat with branded content and behind-the-scenes clips melding the show and car as a modern take on an icon.
Set against a backdrop of power, love, betrayal and war, Versailles examines a defining period of French history. The year is 1667 and King Louis XIV is a 28-year-old monarch on the cusp of greatness. A ruthless leader, he will stop at nothing to achieve his vision of creating the most beautiful palace in Europe and seizing absolute control of France and his enemies.
A Canal+ Création Originale, it’s co-produced by Zodiak Fiction, Capa Drama, and Incendo. Exec producers are Mirren, Wolstencroft, Claude Chelli (Braquo), and Anne Thomopoulos (Rome).
After Saturday’s debut, Versailles continues in the 10 PM slot with a two-hour conclusion set for November 19.
Check out some video: