Julia Roberts, Matthew Weiner, Neil Gaiman Headline Amazon's London TV Showcase
'Homecoming,' 'The Romanoffs' and 'Good Omens' were among the titles given all-star presentations as studio boss Jennifer Salke and her European execs marked their first major European event.
Amazon brought its dog-and-pony show to London on Tuesday and along with it an impressive assortment of A-list names — including Julia Roberts, Rachel Brosnahan, John Krasinski and Cara Delevingne — to help showcase its upcoming wares from both the U.S. and Europe.
The event came almost a year after sexual misconduct allegations against its former studio boss Roy Price preceded an 11th-hour cancellation of Amazon's inaugural London event. Following an interview over the weekend, resurfaced accusations against Matthew Weiner — creator of Amazon’s all-star anthology series The Romanoffs, being given its world premiere Tuesday evening — threatened to overshadow the streaming giant’s second attempt at making a splash across the pond, but the Amazon Prime Video Presents day went ahead interrupted, with Weiner among the special guests in Mayfair’s historic Curzon Cinemas.
Studio head Jennifer Salke, together with vp Europe Jay Marine and director of European prime original TV series, Georgia Brown, made a number of announcements during the event, including an exclusive TV development deal with British creative powerhouse Neil Gaiman, who's behind Amazon's upcoming series Good Omens, and a series order for best-selling fantasy novel series The Wheel of Time.
Also announced was a 10-episode reboot of Mark Burnett’s endurance race competition Eco-Challenge, to be hosted by Running Wild star Bear Grylls and produced by MGM Television. On stage Burnett revealed that he expected the race to start in September 2019.
Never-before-seen footage was shown from Amazon’s first British scripted show, Good Omens, based on the much-loved comic fantasy novel co-written by Gaiman and the late Terry Pratchett and due to launch in 2019.
Gaiman — onstage alongside stars Jon Hamm, Michael Sheen and David Tennant — said that he and Pratchett had spent “many years failing to make [Good Omens] as a movie,” adding that Terry Gilliam had been among those once determined to successfully adapt the book.
According to Gaiman, Pratchett wrote him a letter in 2014 — a year before he died after several years battling Alzheimer’s — telling him that he had to make a TV show in time for him to see it.
“And then he died, which made it a last request,” he said.
Brief clips were shown from another fantasy series, Carnival Row, with its leads Delevingne and Orlando Bloom on hand to discuss what Bloom described as the show’s “Dickensian Steampunk Victorian world.”
Elsewhere there were presentations for several of Amazon’s growing number of non-English shows from the continent, including Deutschland 86, the sequel to the German-language Cold War hit Deutschland 83, which Amazon has in several territories and has already commissioned for a third series; plus Beat, a crime series set in Berlin’s club scene; and Deutsch-Les-Landes, a French-German comedy series in which a small French village sells its castle to a Bavarian company.
Introducing The Romanoffs, launching worldwide Oct. 12, Weiner explained why he’d wanted to make an anthology series, saying that he “wanted a show where you didn’t have to catch up.”
The Mad Men creator explained that The Romanoffs — telling the story of a group of people around the world who believe themselves to be descendants of the Russian royal family — had been shot in eight countries in six language, and had given him the freedom to embark on a different type of storytelling than his most famous series.
“When you commit to a story, the stakes become higher immediately. You don’t know what’s going to happen,” he said. “With Don Draper, for example, he’s probably won’t get fired. He has to be there the next week.”
Fresh off its awards haul at the Emmys, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel dropped into London, with Brosnahan trying her best to keep the plot for season two a secret (although she did let slip that there were “several more ensemble scenes” than on season one). The recent Emmy winner also revealed that the show had found itself a major Hollywood fan in Steven Spielberg, who told her at the Golden Globes that it was the “best Jewish musical since Fiddler on the Roof."
Undoubtedly the biggest name of the whole showcase, however, was Roberts, who helped introduce her upcoming psychological thriller series Homecoming — set to land in all Amazon Video territories Nov. 2 — alongside showrunner and director Sam Esmail.
Although the show, based on the hit podcast of the same name about a caseworker at a secret government facility, was Roberts’ first foray into the world of TV, she revealed that the production had been set up very much like a big-screen project.
“Sam really made an effort on my behalf to create it and shoot it as a movie would have been,” she said. “Our first AD Peter Kohn was the first on The Pelican Brief, and a lot of the crew I knew from movies. And the way we film it was in blocks, very much like a movie.
Esmail said that a second season of Homecoming was already in the works.