“Game of Thrones” might be over, but HBO doesn’t seem quite ready to give up its coverage of controversial female leaders who fancy themselves the kind of royals who can break the very chains the monarchy has made possible. In “Catherine the Great,” an upcoming limited series from director Philip Martin and writer Nigel Williams, the chain-breaking potential turns to an actual ruler: Catherine the Great, played by Helen Mirren.
The four-part historical drama follows the Russian monarch as she nears the end of her reign in the late 18th century (she died in 1796, ruling as Empress of Russia for over thirty years), with an apparent focus on her romantic relationship with Russian military leader Grigory Potemkin (Jason Clarke). The series also stars Georgina Beedle, Thomas Doherty, Andrew Rothney, Antonia Clarke, and Phil Dunster.
And yet the trailer at least hints at the early stages of Catherine’s remarkable run, one shaped by an auspicious and audacious start — she overthrew her own husband — as Mirren says in voiceover, “When I was young I dreamed of freedom, I dreamed of breaking chains. But, as you get older your choices narrow. So, instead, I gave us an empire. But I knew exactly what I was doing.”
It’s hardly the first time Mirren, who reportedly cooked up the idea for the series herself, has played a monarch. The lauded actress has previously played Queen Charlotte in an Oscar-nominated turn in “The Madness of King George,” Queen Elizabeth II in “The Queen” (which won Mirren her first, and somehow only, Oscar), and the titular “Elizabeth I” (which earned her an Emmy).
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Mirren has a number of new offerings hitting the screen this year, including next month’s “Hobbs & Shaw,” which returns her to the “Fast and Furious” franchise milieu, along with Bill Condon’s awards contender “The Good Liar.” Never one to rest on her considerable laurels, Mirren is reportedly in the midst of filming “Fast & Furious 9,” directed by Justin Lin and due for a 2020 release.
Check out the first trailer for “Catherine the Great,” thanks to EW, below. The limited series will air on HBO this fall and Sky Atlantic in the U.K. and Europe.