March 06, 2014 12:30pm PT by Lesley Goldberg
E! Orders First Scripted Series: 'One Tree Hill' Creator's 'The Royals'
More than two years after E! first vowed to expand into scripted programming, the cable network has made good on its promise.
The NBCUniversal-owned cabler has picked up its first original scripted series with The Royals, from One Tree Hill creator Mark Schwahn, The Hollywood Reporter has learned.
The Royals is an hourlong drama about a fictional British royal family in modern-day London. Produced by Lionsgate, the series will premiere in 2015 and is executive produced, written and directed by Schwahn. Brian Robbins and Joe Davola (One Tree Hill, Smallville) are also on board as executive producers on the project that is framed by William Shakespeare's Hamlet.
Elizabeth Hurley plays Queen Helena, who will protect her family's image by any means necessary. Also featured in the ensemble drama, which will film in Great Britain: Vincent Regan, William Moseley, Alexandra Park, Tom Austen, Jake Maskall, Ukweli Roach and Oliver Milburn. The series pits public perception of the royal family against the reality of life inside the castle walls — from parties and high-stakes political summits to private family gatherings and secret romances.
"We are excited that E!’s first original scripted series will transport viewers into a world that they are already intensely interested in, but reality cameras would never give them access to," said E! executive vp original programming and development Jeff Olde. "The Royals will offer a fictional look behind the very public gilded facade of the palace gates to imagine the private, lush, fun, sexy world of the most-watched celebrity family on the planet. It's a perfect series to introduce E! viewers to scripted pop culture programming on the network."
E! first vowed to have two scripted series on the air by 2013, but its first development slate failed to produce a pilot. The Royals — as well as music drama Songbyrd, from Krista Vernoff and featuring songs and the real-life experiences of Grammy winner Diane Warren — were among E!'s second scripted development slate that was announced in April 2013. A decision on Songbyrd has yet to be determined. The pilot is still under consideration and has yet to be screened for E! executives.
"This is a big idea and Mark, Brian, Joe and the Lionsgate team delivered. They have an extraordinary track record at crafting buzzworthy content that reflects and drives the pop culture discussion. This team, working on this concept, with this cast is a great way for us to launch our first scripted show,” said Kevin Plunkett, senior vp scripted programming at E!
For Lionsgate Television, this gives the studio scripted series at NBC (Rosemary's Baby), ABC (Nashville), Netflix (Orange Is the New Black), AMC (Mad Men), Showtime (Nurse Jackie) and FX (Anger Management).
The Royals becomes Schwahn's follow-up to The CW's One Tree Hill, which ended its nine-season run in 2012.
E! joins Bravo as well as Discovery as newer cable networks who are entering the scripted world for the first time. Bravo in February picked up Marti Noxon's Girlfriends' Guide to Divorce as its first scripted series and Discovery in January aired its first scripted miniseries Klondike to modest returns.