Premium network Epix has greenlighted Billy the Kid, an hourlong series about the famous American outlaw, written by Vikings and The Tudors creator Michael Hirst.
Otto Bathurst is set to direct the first two episodes of the eight-episode first season, executive produced by Hirst, Donald De Line of De Line Pictures, Darryl Frank and Justin Falvey of Amblin Television, and Bathurst and Toby Leslie via One Big Picture.
The series is described as an epic romantic adventure based on the life of Billy the Kid, also known as William H. Bonney — from his humble Irish roots and his early days as a cowboy and gunslinger in the American frontier, to his pivotal role in the Lincoln County War and beyond.
“Billy the Kid has always been a hero of mine since I was – well, a kid. I grew up in the North of England but it made no difference. Billy was a special kind of outlaw,” Hirst said. “For a start he was so young – and for another thing, he wasn’t a psychopath who enjoyed killing, nor a criminal who robbed for material gain. He was an outlaw most of his life, but he never wanted to be. Born into a poor Irish family of immigrants, he always wanted to go straight, to be a ‘new American.’ But he was never allowed to.
“Billy’s story is much more than a fantastic drama about a charismatic cowboy – although it is that. It’s also the story of the immigrant, and the story of the creation of the new America from the lawless, violent chaos of the mid-West and its many nations. So in the end it’s not just a story at all – it’s an American myth.”
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Billy the Kid is a co-production between Epix Studios and MGM International Television Productions, in association with Nordic Entertainment Groups streaming service Viaplay. Casting is already underway. Production is slated to begin this June in Calgary, Alberta, with an eye towards a 2022 premiere on MGM-owned Epix.
“Michael Hirst has created a series that will take the audience on an entirely unexpected, thrilling ride, turning what they thought they knew about this iconic character on its head,” Epix president Michael Wright said. “We can’t wait to see how this talented creative team unfolds this story and brings it to life for our viewers.”
This is Hirst’s latest series for MGM following Vikings, which ran for six seasons on History, with Hirst executive producing and writing every episode, as well as the upcoming sequel series for Netflix Vikings: Valhalla, which Hirst executive produces.
“Billy the Kid reunites Michael Hirst and MGM, whose epic sagas with global appeal remain unmatched,” said Rola Bauer, MGM’s President of International Television Productions. “It is an immigrant story at its heart and an international perspective to this legendary American character. Exciting to collaborate once again with our partners at Epix and NENT/Viaplay.”
Billy the Kid has been portrayed on screen numerous times, more notably by Emilio Estevez in the Young Guns movies, Val Kilmer in Gore Vidal’s Billy the Kid, Kris Kristofferson in Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid and, most recently, by Dane DeHaan in the Vincent D’Onofrio-directed 2019 film The Kid.
Billy the Kid marks the fourth greenlit project for the recently launched MGM International Television Productions label and the second co-production with Epix following the contemporary sci-fi horror series From. The division also recently received a pilot order from Amazon Studios for Shelter, a YA mystery/crime drama from author Harlan Coben, as well as The Reunion, an adaptation of French author Guillaume Musso’s novel La Jeune Fille et la Nuit, with Make It Happen Studios and France Televisions.
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