Catherine de Medici Drama Series a Go at Starz

Catherine de Medici Renaissance Queen of France By Leonie Frieda Book Cover
Courtesy of Harper Collins

Starz continues to explore famous women in history.

The Lionsgate-backed premium cable network has gone straight to series on drama The Serpent Queen, a drama based on the book Catherine de Medici: Renaissance Queen of France by Leonie Frieda.

Justin Haythe (Revolutionary Road, The Lone Ranger) will pen the script and exec produce the eight-episode drama. Frances Lawrence (The Hunger Games) and Erwin Stoff (The Matrix) will also exec produce the series. Stacie Passion (Dickinson) set to direct multiple episodes, including the premiere.

The drama is produced by Lionsgate Television and 3 Arts Entertainment. (Lionsgate owns a majority stake in the management company.)

"The Serpent Queen may be the most cunning account of one of the most influential women ever to wear a crownthat Starz has told,” said Starz head of originals Christina Davis. “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.”

Based on thousands of private letters, Frieda's novel was a best-seller when it was published in 2005 and was ultimately translated into eight languages. Here's how Starz describes the series: "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 blood sport that is the monarchy better than anyone else, ruling France for 50 years."

"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,” said 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 fairy tales.”

The Serpent Queen joins a roster of originals celebrating women in history that also includes the upcoming Becoming Elizabeth and previous originals including The White Queen, The White Princess and The Spanish Princess. The cabler, overseen by CEO Jeffrey Hirsch, also boasts a roster of originals including Outlander, P-Valley, Dangerous Liaisons, Heels and the Power franchise.

Under Hirsch, Starz is looking for "premium female" programming, which focuses on women ages 24-54 who, he says, enjoy great women in history. Read more of the executive's plans for the network in THR's interview with him here.