EXCLUSIVE: Sky is getting into the world of tween drama with a 26-part series about a young model. Rising British actress Ella Balinska, who has starred in ITV’s Midsomer Murders, is starring in The Athena, produced by Bryncoed Productions, the indie recently launched by Riviera producer Foz Allan.

The Athena, a 30-minute drama, follows the journey of Nyela Malik (Balinska), a young model whose career implodes when she dares to complain about a famous designer treating her like an object.

Nyela decides she wants to design her own clothes rather than wear other people’s, and wins a place at The Athena, London’s most prestigious art school. It’s a fresh new start, but it’s also the start of fresh new challenges for Nyela. The Athena is full of super-creative, super-ambitious students, photographers, costume designers, graphic artists, fashion designers, jewelry-makers, all intent on pursuing their dreams at any cost. As Nyela navigates this exhilarating but scary new world, she’s also being pulled back into her old life, thanks to her two model friends Miju and Lexy.

The series is written by Holly Philips, who created Kudos’ E4 series Nearly Famous and served as lead writer on ABC Australia’s drama Dance Academy 2. The creative team also includes composer Ilan Eshkeri (Vanity Fair), series producer Paul McKenzie (Boy Meets Girl) and director Isabelle Sieb (Three Women Wait for Death) making her television debut. Allan will executive produce for Bryncoed.

The series will start shooting in London this summer and is slated to air in spring 2019. It will be distributed internationally by ZDF Enterprises, the commercial arm of German public broadcaster ZDF.

Philips said, “Young people are increasingly being told to be more practical and sensible. But in The Athena, I get to tell stories about young people expressing themselves, changing, growing and being creative. I love that.”

Lucy Murphy, Head of Kids Content, UK & Ireland at Sky said: “We had been looking for the right drama for our 9-12 tween audience and when Foz brought in The Athena, we were immediately captivated by the rich drama offered by this creative environment, British cast and the high production values Bryncoed could bring. It’s an ambitious project but we know our tween audience will love the characters and as they navigate that tricky transition to secondary school, will value the storylines of learning to be independent, friendships and finding their own voice.”

Allan added, “Helping young people, particularly girls, to discover their own voice is not only exciting, but important. In the case of The Athena, it’s also helped to attract first-rate talent to the project — names of the calibre of production designer Janice Flint and Poldark DoP Cinders Forshaw. The Athena has a ‘Euro cool’ feel to it, making it a significant addition to the tween live-action drama slate. We can’t wait to put the cool into creativity and craft.”