'Game of Thrones' Producer Sets Historical Drama Series 'Empress' (Exclusive)

Chris Newman, Xu Yan, Kia Jam - Publicity - H 2016
Courtesy of Starlight Media

Chris Newman, Xu Yan, Kia Jam - Publicity - H 2016

With the end of Game of Thrones in sight, one of its producers is setting up his next act.

Christopher Newman — who has been with the HBO fantasy drama since its start — is set to explore the story of Wu Zetian, China's only female empress. Newman has signed a deal with Starlight Media and K. Jam Media to develop and produce Empress, which has been commissioned as a 13-episode drama. Producers Starlight Media will fully finance the series — which carries an estimated budget of $70 million — and will shop the project from K. Jam Media to broadcast networks after filming has been completed. Production on the currently uncast project is set to begin in Sichuan, China, in late 2017 with a premiere eyed for 2018.

Empress will tell the storied tale of the only female empress in the history of China — Wu Zetian, who ruled during the Tang dynasty (618-906 A.D.), a time of relative freedom for women. She was known for her wit, intelligence and humor as well as being ruthless, cunning and a political force to be reckoned with. The series will follow her ascent through the court of Emperor Tai Tsung; life as his favorite concubine — and ultimately her rise to power.

Newman will exec produce the drama alongside Starlight Media chairman Xu Yan, CEO Peter Luo and Beely Lee as well as K. Jam CEO Kia Jam.

"I am very happy to announce this partnership and am looking forward to working with this excellent creative team to bring the story of the Empress Wu to a global audience," Xu said Wednesday in a statement. Added Jam: "My partner Chris and I have already started to assemble a world-class team and are thrilled to be in business with our friends at Starlight Media. The story of the empress is a story of intrigue, history and power that provides a deep storytelling well that we hope will have numerous seasons to follow."

Starlight Media is a U.S.-based company founded in 2013 by Xu and next has feature Marshall, directed by Reginald Hudlin and produced by Paula Wagner. K. Jam Media is an independent film and TV production company based in Los Angeles and has financed or co-financed more than 20 movies and TV productions.

Newman started as a line producer before moving on to co-producer and producer on Game of Thrones. His credits include Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace, Notting Hill and Love Actually.