Starz has set their ensemble cast for their upcoming historical drama The Serpent Queen on the 16th century French Queen Catherine de Medici. Samantha Morton (The Walking Dead) will lead as Catherine alongside Amrita Acharia (Game of Thrones), Enzo Cilenti (Free Fire), Barry Atsma (The Hitman’s Bodyguard), Nicholas Burns (Emma) and Danny Kirrane (Pirates of the Caribbean).
The series is based on the book Catherine de Medici: Renaissance Queen of France by Leonie Frieda. Justin Haythe (Revolution Road) will write and executive produce the eight-episode series.
Starring in recurring roles are Charles Dance (Game of Thrones) as Pope Clement, Ludivine Sagnier (8 Women) as Diane, Liv Hill (Three Girls) as a young Catherine, Kiruna Stamell (The New Pope) as Mathilde and Colm Meaney (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine) as King Francis.
Cilenti is Ruggieri. “When Catherine meets the magician and soothsayer, he is peddling his talents on the streets of Florence, alongside peasants and grifters. She invites him to join her retinue with no thoughts to the man’s own agenda or crimes. After he joins her in the French court by becoming her personal guide to the black arts, he changes his life and hers, forever.”
Atsma will be Montmorency. “In a royal court where nobody thinks of anything but their own survival and status, Montmorency has the dubious distinction of actually caring about the greater good of the society he serves as its foremost military leader. Concepts like fairness, equality and justice mean something to this man. Consequently, he is almost always a step behind the other members of court, who find him either a bore or a hindrance to their scheming. When Montmorency converts to Protestantism it is that rare thing: genuine. Montmorency’s goodness and wisdom finally win him the trust and faith of King Charles IX, Catherine’s second son. Unfortunately, his guidance of the young monarch puts him directly in Catherine’s cross hairs – provoking her rage, hatred and ultimately, deadly vengeance.”
Acharia plays Aabis, “A member of Catherine’s retinue. Aabis is Muslim, a Moor by birth, but procured and converted by Pope Clement to Christianity after war with Suleiman the Ottoman Emperor. Everything that Catherine is not, with a beauty that regularly invokes the desire of powerful men, she is at first grateful to be rescued by Catherine from the predation of Pope Clement. Once in the Valois court, however, Aabis earns Catherine’s envy and realizes too late she may have entered into a Faustian bargain of her own.”
Burns portrays Antoine de Bourbon. “The eldest of the Bourbon brothers, Antoine, was married to Jeanne D’Albret, the daughter of Marguerite, Queen of Navarre and King Francis’s sister. In this way his father hopes the Bourbons will move closer to the Valois. But Antoine is lazy and a sensualist, much more motivated by his own comforts and titillations than any power plays.”
Kirrane is Louis de Bourbon, “the stronger willed and more intelligent Bourbon brother. He is not as easy for the Valois to manipulate and ridicule but he is not as intelligent as he thinks himself to be.”
Considered an immigrant, common and plain, Catherine de Medici is married into the 16th century French court as an orphaned teenager expected to bring a fortune in dowry and produce many heirs, only to discover that her husband is in love with an older woman, her dowry is unpaid and she’s unable to conceive. Yet, only with her intelligence and determination, she manages to keep her marriage alive and masters the bloodsport that is the monarchy better than anyone else, ruling France for 50 years.
Ricky Church – Follow me on Twitter for more movie news and nerd talk.