She is replacing Keira Knightley who was originally cast last summer in in the period drama, an adaptation of Sarah Perry’s novel. Knightley, who has two young children, pulled out of the project in October in what was described in the British press as concerns over childcare during the pandemic.
The Essex Serpent follows newly widowed Cora (Danes) who, having being released from an abusive marriage, relocates from Victorian London to the small village of Aldwinter in Essex, intrigued by a local superstition that a mythical creature known as the Essex Serpent has returned to the area.
The project, from See-Saw Films, the company behind The King’s Speech and Top of the Lake, will be directed by Dark River and The Selfish Giant helmer Clio Barnard. Mrs Wilson scribe Anna Symon is the lead writer.
Set in 1893, the book was published by Serpent’s Tail, an imprint of Profile Books in 2016 and was named Book of the Year by the British Book Awards that year.
Jamie Laurenson, Hakan Kousetta, Patrick Walters, Iain Canning, Emile Sherman will executive produce the show alongside Clio Barnard and Anna Symon. Andrea Cornwell will serve as producer.
Danes starred as Carrie Mathison in Showtime’s Homeland, a role which earned her two Emmy Awards three Golden Globes and a SAG Award among a slew of accolades. Danes, who burst into the acting scene with My So-Called Life, for which she won a Golden Globe, also won an Emmy, a Golden Globe and a SAG Award for the HBO film Temple Grandin. Her The Essex Serpent casting was first reported by Variety.