Starz Readying Women in History Anthology

Alison Weir
Roberto Ricciuti/Getty Images

Alison Weir

Starz is developing a slate of shows about extraordinary women in history, with Eleanor of Aquitaine as the first subject.

The premium cable outlet has acquired rights to two books about the 12th century monarch by best-selling author Alison Weir: the nonfiction Eleanor of Aquitaine: A Life and its companion novel, Captive Queen.

Susie Conklin (A Discovery of Witches, Cranford) will adapt the books and executive produce. Starz parent Lionsgate TV and Playground, headed by former HBO Films chief Colin Callender, are producing the umbrella series. Scott Huff and David Stern will oversee development for Playground and also serve as exec producers.

"This slate of series will focus on lesser known but undeniably exceptional female historical figures while continuing the exploration of fierce characters in history," said Starz Programming president Christina Davis. "Alison Weir's novels are the perfect jumping off point for this collection of series from Playground, who are known for their sophisticated storytelling."

The focus on women in history aligns with Starz CEO Jeffrey Hirsch's "premium female" focus and the network's commitment to narratives by and about women. The outlet is also no stranger to period dramas, being home to Outlander, The Spanish Princess and its predecessors and upcoming series Becoming Elizabeth and Dangerous Liaisons.

"We're excited to partner with Starz and Lionsgate to bring Alison Weir's acclaimed biography and novel of Eleanor of Aquitaine to television," said Huff and Stern. "Eleanor presided over a magnificent, progressive court filled with scandal and intrigue, and we’re thrilled with Susie's bold and provocative take on this fascinating story."

Said Conklin, "I'm thrilled at the opportunity to bring Eleanor's story to life — the drama and adventures she experienced are truly epic. I'm also captivated at how a woman who lived over 800 years ago can be so strikingly modern. She’s determined to live her life on her own terms, and the way she goes about that are extraordinary."

Weir's books have sold more than 3 million copies in the United States and U.K. Her other works include The Six Wives of Henry VIII (she's now at work on a series of novels about each woman), The Life of Elizabeth I and Queens of the Conquest.

Karen Bailey, senior vp original programming at Starz, is overseeing development for the network. Lionsgate TV senior vp Jocelyn Sabo is doing the same for the studio.