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Starz charmed by Serpent Queen

Lionsgate-owned US cablenet Starz has greenlit a period drama recounting the “dark legend” of Renaissance Italian noblewoman and ruler of France Catherine de Medici.

Christina Davis

The Serpent Queen is based on Leonie Frieda’s book Catherine de Medici: Renaissance Queen of France and will be written and executive produced by Revolutionary Road writer Justin Haythe.

Other executive producers include The Hunger Games franchise director Francis Lawrence and The Matrix producer Erwin Stoff, while Stacie Passon is set to direct multiple episodes, including the first.

The eight-episode series is produced for Starz by Lionsgate Television and 3 Arts Entertainment.

Starz, previously home to other period dramas such as The White Princess and The Spanish Princess, is on the hunt for content that can “reach out to underrepresented females,” president of original programming Christina Davis told Natpe Virtual Miami last month.

Senior VP of original programming Kathryn Tyus-Adair is the executive overseeing The Serpent Queen on behalf of Starz. Courtney Mock is handling the series on behalf of Lionsgate.

Based on thousands of private letters, Frieda’s book was a bestseller on both sides of the Atlantic and was translated into eight languages.

Considered an immigrant, common and plain, de Medici is married into the 16th century French court as an orphaned teenager and is expected to bring a fortune in dowry and produce many heirs.

However, she discovers her husband is in love with an older woman, her dowry is unpaid and she’s unable to conceive.

Yet her intelligence and determination allow her to keep her marriage alive and master the bloodsport that is the monarchy better than anyone else, ruling France for 50 years.

“The Serpent Queen may be the most cunning account of one of the most influential women ever to wear a crown that Starz has told. We are thrilled to be working with such an incredibly talented team who will give this series a modern voice among a sensational historical backdrop,” said Davis.

“Writing Catherine and her story has been truly exciting as she is a very complex leading character who becomes a skilled ruler, battling extraordinary political and personal odds throughout her reign,” added Haythe.

“She is a queen who defies convention, as she relies upon her intellect, her unusual entourage and a ready supply of black magic, inspiring, centuries later, the evil queen of fairytales.”

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