From Marvel to mythical: 'Loki' star joins cast of Apple TV period drama

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Michelle Rose / TV Media
Tom Hiddleston to star in "The Essex Serpent"

Tom Hiddleston to star in "The Essex Serpent"

From Marvel to mythical: While anticipation is running high for Disney 's "Loki" series ahead of its June premiere, the star of the show has already booked his next TV gig.

Loki himself, Tom Hiddleston ("The Night Manager"), recently signed on to star opposite Claire Danes ("Homeland") in the Apple TV period drama, "The Essex Serpent."

The series is based on the bestselling novel by Sarah Perry and is set in Victorian England. It's the story of a widow named Cora (played by Danes), who now finds herself freed from an abusive marriage. She decides to move to the small village of Aldwinter, Essex, where she becomes intrigued by a local superstition about a mythical creature known as the Essex Serpent, which is rumored to have returned to the area. Hiddleston will play the part of Will Ransom, the trusted leader of the community.

While Hiddleston is the most recent addition to the cast, Danes' involvement only dates back to February: she took over the lead role after Keira Knightley ("Pride & Prejudice," 2015) dropped out, citing concerns about the rise in COVID-19 cases in the United Kingdom. This will be Danes' first television series since "Homeland" ended its eight-season run in April 2020.

Screenwriter Anna Symon ("Mrs. Wilson") is adapting Perry's novel for TV as the lead writer, while fellow executive producer Clio Barnard ("Dark River," 2017) will direct. See-Saw Films, the company behind "The King's Speech" (2010), is producing "The Essex Serpent" for Apple TV .


Fanning on 'Ripley': Showtime is still moving ahead with its much-anticipated "Ripley" series — in fact, the project recently found its leading lady.

Dakota Fanning ("The Alienist") has agreed to star opposite Andrew Scott (aka "Fleabag's" Hot Priest and Prof. Moriarty in "Sherlock") in the latest adaptation of Patricia Highsmith's Tom Ripley novels (there are five of them in total).

Scott stars as Tom Ripley, the character played by Matt Damon in the 1999 film "The Talented Mr. Ripley." Ripley is just scraping by in 1960s New York City when he is suddenly hired by a wealthy businessman to convince the man's son, Dickie ("Beast" star Johnny Flynn), to leave his cushy, trust-funded life in Italy and return home. Per the series description, "Tom's acceptance of the job is his first step into a life of deceit, fraud and murder."

Fanning, who was also cast in Showtime's "The First Lady" anthology series, joins "Ripley" as the female lead, Marge Sherwood (Gwyneth Paltrow's character in the aforementioned film). Marge is an American living with Dickie in Italy. While Ripley easily ingratiates himself with Dickie, Marge is less trusting and begins to suspect darker motives.

"Dakota Fanning is the perfect choice to play the deliciously complicated Marge opposite Andrew Scott's Tom Ripley," Amy Israel, executive vice-president of scripted programming at Showtime, said. "She's an actor that brings smarts and vulnerability to every part, with so much bubbling beneath the surface. We can't wait to see her sink her teeth into this role in Steve Zaillian's 'Ripley.'"

Zaillian is the creator of HBO's "The Night Of" and won numerous awards for his "Schindler's List" (1993) screenplay. He is on board as writer and director for the entire first season, which will consist of eight episodes. Filming should begin later this year in Italy and the series seems to be on track for a 2022 premiere.


Hale's horror: Since her breakout role in "Pretty Little Liars," actress Lucy Hale has been bouncing back and forth between movie and TV projects, such as last year's "A Nice Girl Like You" and CW's "Riverdale" spinoff, "Katy Keene." And it seems the trend might continue: Variety was the first to break the news that Hale will soon star in a new AMC crime drama series.

Based on the novel by Daniel Cole, "Ragdoll" is a six-part "modern-day Faustian thriller" that revolves around the murder of six people. But there's a rather gruesome explanation for that title (consider yourself warned): the bodies have all been dismembered and sewn together to form a grotesque shape nicknamed "The Ragdoll." (Ew.)

We know the lead character is DS Nathan Rose of London's Metropolitan Police Service (DS stands for detective sergeant); Rose has just recently been reinstated to the force when he is assigned to the shocking case. Hale will play the role of DC (detective constable) Lake Edmunds, a new recruit. They'll also be joined by Rose's best friend and boss, DI (detective inspector) Emily Baxter.

The trio works furiously to crack the case, but they quickly find themselves under intense public scrutiny after the killer taunts them by sending a list of his next victims — and Rose's name is on that list.

Sid Gentle Films is behind "Ragdoll," and if that name sounds familiar, it could be because it's the same British production company behind "Killing Eve." The series also hails from writer Freddy Syborn ("Ms. Marvel"), who adapted the novels and had this to say about the TV series: "I hope 'Ragdoll' will be a visually exciting, darkly funny thriller in which the personal is the political. Above all, I hope our characters can make you laugh, then break your heart."

Filming should be underway soon (if it isn't already) for a possible premiere later this year.