EXCLUSIVE: Last summer, FX greenlighted two limited series within days of each other, Fosse/Verdon and Shōgun. While Fosse/Verdon was unveiled at TCA today and has an April 9 premiere date, Shōgun has been put on a slower track.
The project, based on James Clavell’s best-selling novel, had cast several Japanese actors when the network recently made a decision to postpone production.
“We were heading towards production — still are by the way, I would still call this a project that is in active pre-production,” FX CEO John Landgraf told Deadline at TCA Monday. “We just didn’t think it was in a good enough shape. Our bottom line was – we just said, we need to slow down and we’ve got to aim higher.”
The extra time is being used for more work on scripts as well as figuring out logistics for filming the 10-episode series, which the network had billed as its largest international scale production, with filming in the U.K. and Japan.
Set in feudal Japan, Shōgun charts the collision of two ambitious men from different worlds and a mysterious female samurai: John Blackthorne, a risk-taking English sailor who ends up shipwrecked in Japan, a land whose unfamiliar culture will ultimately redefine him; Lord Toranaga, a shrewd, powerful daimyo, at odds with his own dangerous, political rivals; and Lady Mariko, a woman with invaluable skills but dishonorable family ties, who must prove her value and allegiance.
Stressing how beloved Clavell’s book still is, Landgraf noted that its 1980s adaptation won the Emmy for best limited series. “But the bar for what would be the best limited series in any given year has gone up by a lot in the 40 years since the original show was made,” he said. “Part of what is really challenging about this is the level of authenticity. It’s cultural authenticity, but also the physical production authenticity required is far deeper and greater than it was before. It has to look and feel real, it’s medieval Japan.”
Last August, Landgraf talked about how the new Shōgun will be different from the 1980 one, which was done largely through the eyes of a Westerner, played by Richard Chamberlain. “I agree that if you sort of just exoticize and fetishize Japanese culture through the Western eyes and male gaze, it would probably not fly,” he said. “(The FX version) is told from multiple points of view, not just the singular Western white male point of view, it’s told through many Japanese points of view.”
FX is employing cultural consultants to help with the scripts, and still plans to film in Japan. The hope is that the Japanese actors who had been cast would still be part of the series once it is cleared for production. As to when that will happen, it is still TBD.