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The power struggles of Ancient Rome — told through a female perspective — are to be dramatized for TV in a new original series from Comcast-owned European giant Sky.
Domina, being produced by Sky’s new production arm Sky Studios alongside Fifty Fathoms (Fortitude, The A Word), part of Endemol Shine, with Cattleya as exec producers, is a 10-part drama following the life and the extraordinary rise of Livia Drusilla, the mother of the emperor Tiberius, who overcame adversity to become the most powerful woman in the world. Filming started this week at Cinecittà Studios in Rome.
The series features Kasia Smutniak (Perfect Strangers, Them, Devils) playing Drusilla, supported by an international cast including Liam Cunningham (Game of Thrones) playing Livius, Livia’s father, and Isabella Rossellini (Blue Velvet, Death Becomes Her) playing Balbina, an early enemy. Alongside them star Matthew McNulty (Misfits) as the future emperor Gaius, Christine Bottomley (The End of the F***ing World) as Scribonia, Colette Tchantcho (The Witcher) as Antigone, Ben Batt (Captain America: The First Avenger) as Agrippa, Enzo Cilenti (Free Fire) as Tiberius Claudius Nero, while Claire Forlani (Meet Joe Black) plays Claudia Octavia.
Domina follows Livia’s journey from a naïve young girl whose world crumbles in the wake of Julius Caesar’s assassination, to Rome’s most powerful and influential Empress, driven by a deep desire to avenge her father and secure power for her sons. Livia and her peers navigate their way through a brutal society by means of strategy, conspiracy, seduction and murder. This is a visceral and authentic family saga, grounded in historical accuracy and bringing to life the incredible true stories of the women who would create one of the most enduring and fascinating dynasties of all time.
Created and written by Simon Burke (Zen, Fortitude), the lead director is Australian filmmaker Claire McCarthy (Ophelia, The Luminaries).
The crew includes top Italian professionals: costumes will be designed by the Academy Award winning Gabriella Pescucci (The Age of Innocence, Once Upon A Time in America), production design by Luca Tranchino (Prison Break), makeup by Katia Sisto (Penny Dreadful) and hair design by Claudia Catini (Trust).
“I am thrilled to be playing such a complex character as Livia Drusilla,” said Kasia Smutniak. “As a frontrunner in defending women’s rights, she was a tough woman who was both feared and cherished and was strong enough to seal the fate of the Roman Empire.”
Added Nicola Maccanico, Sky Italia’s executive vp programming: “Domina is an international production and we are very proud of its strong Italian roots. It is a great epic drama that brings to life ancient Rome again, but from a different perspective, that of the women, and reshapes our view of them. They are the masters of their fate and fiercely pursue their ambitions and ultimately the conquest of power. With Domina, Sky Studios will once again bring together major international artistic values and top Italian talents.”
Patrick Spence, managing director of Fifty Fathoms, added: “Simon’s scripts offer a unique opportunity to see Ancient Rome as it has never been shown before. Authentic, messy, visceral, and with the agenda driven quietly, but ruthlessly by the women.”
Claire McCarthy, Domina lead director, said: “This period of Roman history is truth being stranger than fiction. I’m tremendously excited to bring this rich and visceral world to life with this incredible troupe of stellar actors and the gifted creative team. What an honor to be working out of Cinecittà studios too where so many of the greats have built cinema history.”
Domina is being executive produced by Spence, Marcus Wilson, Faye Dorn, Burke and McCarthy and produced by John Phillips.
The series will air exclusively in all Sky territories, in Italy, U.K., Ireland, Germany and Spain. NBCUniversal Global Distribution holds international rights in the rest of the world on behalf of Sky Studios.
Buoyed by a recent doubling of investment in original programming since its $39 billion acquisition by Comcast, Sky has a number of new series on the horizon. Among the titles coming soon are The New Pope, created and directed by Paolo Sorrentino with Jude Law and John Malkovich; ZeroZeroZero, directed by Stefano Sollima and based on Roberto Saviano’s book, featuring Andrea Riseborough, Dane DeHaan and Gabriel Byrne; and Devils, starring Alessandro Borghi and Patrick Dempsey.
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