Maggie Gyllenhaal to Star in Sundance Mini 'The Honourable Woman'

The eight-part drama will air next year as the network continues its push into original scripted programming.
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Maggie Gyllenhaal

Maggie Gyllenhaal is heading to the small screen.

The Academy Award nominee (Crazy Horse) has been tapped to star in Sundance Channel's original miniseries The Honourable Woman, The Hollywood Reporter has learned.

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The eight-part miniseries is described as a fast-paced thriller set against an international political backdrop. Gyllenhaal, who will make her largest TV commitment to date with the project, will play Nessa Stein, the daughter of a Zionist arms procurer who as a child witnessed his assassination. Now an adult, Nessa inherits her father's company and changes course from supplying arms to laying data cabling networks between Israel and the West Bank. Her efforts to reconcile the Israelis and Palestinians lands her an appointment to the House of Lords and creates an international political maelstrom.

BAFTA winner Hugo Blick (The Shadow Line) will pen the script, direct and executive produce alongside Drama Republic's Greg Brenman (Billy Elliot), with Abi Bach (Small Island) on board to produce the Sundance and BBC Worldwide North America co-production. The project hails from Eight Rooks and Drama Republic for BBC Two and is co-produced by Sundance. Polly Hill will oversee for BBC, with BBC Worldwide holding on to international distribution rights. Jemma Adkins, senior vp scripted productions at BBC Worldwide North America, brokered the deal. BBC drama controller Ben Stephenson and BBC Two controller Janice Hadlow commissioned the series, which will air on BBC Two before it airs on Sundance.

"I couldn't put the scripts down. Nessa is such an exciting and intricate character. I can't wait to begin filming," Gyllenhaal said.

The Honourable Woman will be set in the U.K., Middle East and America and will film on location starting in July. It will air in the U.S. and BBC Two in the U.K. in 2014.

Added Sundance Channel president Sarah Barnett: "The Honourable Woman is scintillating drama: It is both a tightly plotted international political thriller and a superbly wrought character piece about hope, compromise, guilt and families. The talent both behind and in front of the camera is remarkable, and we are so excited to present this brilliant and wildly entertaining miniseries to our viewers."

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For Sundance, the mini comes as the AMC-owned network is continuing its push into original scripted programming. The cabler's first scripted effort, Rectify, has been renewed for a second season and casting is underway on scripted drama The Descendants.

"Maggie Gyllenhaal will be a perfect Nessa Stein, and I am delighted that she has agreed to play her. Hugo Blick has created a complex character in Nessa, with an extraordinary story and the combination of Hugo’s stunning scripts and Maggie Gyllenhaal in the lead role is an exciting and powerful combination,” said Hill, head of independent drama at the BBC.   

Added Brenman: “We have been fans of Hugo Blick for many years and are thrilled that this extraordinary project, now boasting one of America’s leading ladies will be the first production for Drama Republic.”

Gyllenhaal becomes the latest top name to explore the small screen with a limited series. Mad Men's Elisabeth Moss starred in Sundance's seven-part entry Top of the Lake. Others, including Matt Dillon and Melissa Leo (Fox's Wayward Pines) are following suit, drawn by the limited time commitment and the networks' bid for awards season prestige.  

Gyllenhaal, a two-time Golden Globe nominee (Sherrybaby, Secretary) whose credits also include The Dark Knight and Donnie Darko, is repped by WME and the Schiff Co.

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