Los Angeles: Aidan Gillen, the star of popular shows like “Game of Thrones” and “The Wire”, will play one of the leads in “The O’Neill”, directed by Stephen Saint Leger of “Vikings” fame.
The show is billed as a Gaelic Ireland epic drama series based on the life of the greatest hero of the country, Hugh O’Neill, reported Variety.
Leger, whose credits also include “Vikings: Valhalla” and “The Battle” episode of “Barbarians”, will direct the series pilot and a number of episodes.
Structured as four eight-hour seasons, “The O’Neill” follows Ireland’s O’Neill dynasty, its most powerful Gaelic lordship, as in 1560 a nine-year-old Hugh O’Neill is taken from his native Ireland and groomed as an English Lord at the English Court where he forms a tight bond with the future Queen Elizabeth I, only 10 years his senior.
Sent back to Ireland after he came of age to govern for the crown, he has to decide between becoming an English landlord or a Gaelic warlord. His decision would mark the greatest threat to England’s sovereignty until WWII.
Gillen will play Sir Henry Bagnal, Marshall of Elizabeth I’s Royal Irish Army and O’Neill’s bitter arch enemy.
Tim Loane, who served as showrunner on season three of “Versailles”, will showrun “The O’Neill”.
The upcoming series is set up at Dublin’s Revolution Media, headed by Jack Armstrong who originated the series concept, and at top Irish producer Subotica.
Calling “The O’Neill” a “‘Braveheart’ for television”, Loane said, “Almost always the narrative is the glory of Empire from the colonists’ perspective; we will do a 180 on the period and view events through the eyes of the vanquished, the colonized, of Gaelic Ireland.”
Armstrong will produce with Subotica’s Tristan Open Lynch and Aolfe O’Sullivan.
“Hugh O’Neill managed to unite the clans, which had never happened before, and engaged in what was called the Nine Years War but was really the climax of a 400 years war with England, the last gasp of great Gaelic Ireland. For much of Europe at the time, he was like a rock star,” he said.
Loane, Armstrong and historian James Sheridan have spent months researching the period.
“In Gaelic Ireland, women had equal standing to men and so it was not uncommon for women to be clan leaders. So there are many female leaders depicted in ‘The O’Neill’, like Ineen Dubh, de facto leader of the O’Donnells and Grace O’Malley, the Pirate Queen, The O’Malley,” Armstrong added.