EXCLUSIVE: Patricia Cornwell’s Kay Scarpetta books have completed their long journey to the screen with a blockbuster TV series starring Oscar winner Nicole Kidman in the title role and Oscar nominee Jamie Lee Curtis as the famous forensic pathologist’s sister Dorothy, I have learned. Kidman is executive producing through Blossom Films and Curtis through Comet Pictures the drama, from writer-showrunner Liz Sarnoff (Barry) and Blumhouse Television, which I hear is nearing a two-season straight-to-series order at Prime Video. A rep for the streamer declined comment as deals for the project, to be produced by Amazon Studios and Blumhouse, are still being finalized. It is expected to receive an order for two eight-episode seasons, sources said.
Kidman’s Kay Scarpetta is a brilliant forensic pathologist, inspired by former Virginia Chief Medical Examiner Marcella Farinelli Fierro, who uses forensic technology to solve crimes. Curtis will play Kay’s flighty sister, Dorothy, the mother of Lucy Farinelli who is a recurring character in the book series.
Cornwell, Curtis via her Comet Pictures and Kidman and Per Saari through Kidman’s Blossom Films executive produce with Blumhouse’s Jason Blum, Chris McCumber, Jeremy Gold and Chris Dickie.
The Kay Scarpetta TV series incarnation came out of Curtis’ first-look deal with Blumhouse and her relationship with Cornwell. A big fan of the hugely successful author, who has sold over 100M books, the Halloween star has regularly moderated conversations with Cornwell, who is famously protective of her creations.
In 2021, Curtis’ Comet Pictures and Blumhouse Televison secured the rights to the Kay Scarpetta series, which features 26 books starting with Postmortem in 1990, with the most recent entry, Livid, published last year. At the time, Curtis was revealed as an executive producer, with no acting involvement.
“Patricia Cornwell is a bonafide literary trailblazer, and collaborating with her to bring her beloved character Kay Scarpetta to life through the power of television and to introduce her to an entirely new audience is exciting,” Curtis said when announcing the book acquisition. “The confluence of Blumhouse and Comet bringing to life a dark, fun and layered work world and family life, spearheaded by the smart and sexy indomitable Kay Scarpetta is going to be a thrilling ride.”
Sarnoff, who has since come on board to write the adaptation, fits the tone Comet and Blumhouse had been aiming for as she has been switching between drama and comedy throughout her career, with Emmy nominations for her work on dramas Lost and Deadwood and dark comedy Barry. She also has experience in crime drama series with stints on Crossing Jordan, starring Jill Hennessy as a medical examiner, and NYPD Blue.
Previously, there had been multiple attempts to mount a Kay Scarpetta movie that did not come to fruition, including one at Columbia Pictures three decades ago with Demi Moore attached to play the iconic literary character and one at Fox 2000 ten years ago with Angelina Jolie in the title role.
After decades focusing primarily on features, Kidman, a four-time Oscar nominee and a winner for The Hours, starred in and executive produced HBO’s limited-turned drama series Big Little Lies, which earned her two Emmy awards, one for acting and one for producing. She went on to star in and executive produce another HBO limited series, The Undoing, as well as Hulu’s Nine Perfect Strangers and Apple TV+’s Roar. She also received an Emmy nomination for her title role in HBO movie Hemingway & Gellhorn. Kidman next stars alongside Zoe Saldaña in Taylor Sheridan’s drama Lioness for Paramount+ and Expats for Prime Video and Amazon Studios, where Blossom Films has had a first-look deal. She is repped by CAA, Shanahan Management, Media Talent Group and Jackoway Austen Tyerman.
Curtis is an Oscar nominee in the Supporting Actress category for Everything Everywhere All at Once. She also recently reprised her signature Halloween role as Laurie in the latest installment from the classic horror movie franchise, Halloween Ends. Her rare major TV series roles in the past three decades include stints on Scream Queens, New Girl and NCIS. She won a BAFTA Award for her role in Trading Place and received an Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or Movie Emmy nomination for her role in the telefilm Nicholas’ Gift. Curtis is repped by CAA and Jackoway Austen Tyerman.
Sarnoff most recently was an executive producer on HBO’s Barry, earning a writing Emmy nomination and sharing in the show’s three Outstanding Comedy Series Emmy nominations to date. She previously was part of the teams nominated in the Outstanding Drama Series category for Lost (three times) and Deadwood. Sarnoff also co-created Bad Robot’s Fox series Alcatraz and executive produced Marco Polo for Netflix. She is repped by CAA and attorney Tara Kole.
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