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Netflix and Canadian producers Halfire Entertainment and CBC have found their leading lady for Alias Grace.
True Blood and Roots alum Anna Paquin has been tapped to topline the trio’s adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s Alias Grace, The Hollywood Reporter has learned.
Published in 1996, Alias Grace follows Grace Marks (Sarah Gadon), a poor, young Irish immigrant and domestic servant in upper Canada who, along with stable hand James McDermott, was convicted of the brutal murders of their employer, Thomas Kinnear, and his housekeeper, Nancy Montgomery, in 1843. McDermott was hanged, while Marks was sentenced to life imprisonment. She became one of the most enigmatic and notorious women of 1840s Canada for her supposed role in the sensational double murder and was eventually exonerated after 30 years in jail. Her conviction was controversial and sparked much debate over whether she actually was involved in the killings or merely an unwitting accessory.
Paquin will play Nancy Montgomery, Kinnear’s housekeeper and lover. While she initially befriends Grace, she begins to resent her and becomes increasingly jealous of Kinnear’s affection for her. Nancy eventually fires Grace in a fit of rage and is later found brutally murdered. Chuck grad Zachary Levi co-stars.
The six-hour miniseries is inspired by Marks’ true story and will be written and produced by Sarah Polley (Looking for Alaska, Away From Her). Mary Harron (American Psycho, I Shot Andy Warhol) will direct. Production is slated to begin Aug. 15 in Ontario. Polley, Harron and Noreen Halpern (NBC’s Working the Engels) will executive produce; D.J. Carson (Spotlight) is on board as an executive producer. A premiere date has not been determined.
The Netflix adaptation, like Atwood’s novel, will introduce a fictional young doctor named Simon Jordan who researches the case and falls in love with Marks. He soon becomes obsessed with her as he seeks to reconcile his perception of the mild-mannered woman he sees with the savage murders of which she has been convicted.
“Anna is an incredibly versatile performer who always makes complex, unpredictable and fascinating choices in her work,” Polley said. “It’s always a marvel to watch her and we’re thrilled to have her join the cast.”
For Canadian Paquin, the role marks her latest TV foray following A&E’s Roots re-do. She starred in a divorce drama pilot for ABC from EP Reese Witherspoon, but that did not move forward. That would have been the True Blood alum’s first series regular role after her seven-season run on the HBO vampire drama wrapped in 2014. Since then, the actress has focused on features including X-Men: Days of Future Past and a voice role in The Good Dinosaur. Paquin is repped by WME, Brillstein Entertainment and Sloane Offer.
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