BAFTA-winning writer Sally Wainwright (“Happy Valley,” “Gentleman Jack”), “Killing Eve” producer Sally Woodward Gentle and producers Faith Penhale (“Les Miserables”) and Stephen Garrett (“The Night Manager”) are among the creatives behind Disney Plus’ first scripted slate out of the U.K.
The service has unveiled two Star originals — including one from debut screenwriter Emma Moran — and one Disney-branded project. This brings the streamer’s European originals to 14 — almost a third of its planned 50-title slate out of Europe by 2024. They will be executive produced on behalf of Disney by Johanna Devereaux, director of scripted.
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The U.K. original productions are as follows, with synopses provided by Disney:
The Ballad of Renegade Nell
Penned by Wainwright, “The Ballad of Renegade Nell” is billed as a “Disney-branded swashbuckling adventure series” that is set in the 18th century and produced by Lookout Point (“Gentleman Jack,” “A Suitable Boy”). When she’s framed for murder, Nell Jackson is forced into a life of highway robbery, along with her two orphaned sisters Roxanne and George. Aided by a plucky little spirit called Billy Blind, Nell realizes that fate has put her on the wrong side of the law for a reason, a reason much bigger than she could’ve ever imagined — a reason that goes right up to Queen Anne and beyond, to the struggle for power raging across the battlefields of Europe. The project is executive produced by Sally Wainwright, Faith Penhale and Will Johnston from BBC Studios-backed Lookout Point.
Wainwright said: “I can’t wait to bring swashbuckling highwaywoman Nell Jackson to the screen. Nell’s a ball of irreverent, blustering energy, fighting against the privileged gatekeepers of English society in 1705, battling to contain mysterious forces within her and her enemies as she goes on the run with her two sisters.”
Penhale added: “In Nell Jackson, Sally has conjured up yet another instantly iconic female lead. Her wit, warmth and boundless capacity for invention will make our journey through Nell’s riotous imagined life a very special ride indeed and viewers of all ages around the world will love the way Sally blends history and magic to create an utterly original, endlessly entertaining world.”
Elsewhere, Star Original “Culprits” is a dark comedy heist series from filmmaker J Blakeson (“I Care A Lot,” “The Disappearance of Alice Creed”). The show follows what happens after a heist, when the crew have gone their separate ways, but are being targeted by a killer one-by-one. Created and directed by Blakeson, the series is executive produced by Garrett and produced by Morenike Williams (“Killing Eve”). Culprits is a Character 7 production.
Noting that work began on “Culprits” a couple of years ago, Garrett said, “We are immensely proud that Disney Plus have decided to make it one of their platform-defining shows. The additional thrill for me is that I’m working with a writer-director at the very top of his game.”
Blakeson added: “Disney Plus has quickly become one of the most exciting outlets for must-watch TV, so I’m excited ‘Culprits’ will find its home there. And it is such a pleasure to be collaborating with Stephen Garrett, who has an impeccable track-record making brilliant and impactful shows.”
Finally, “Extraordinary” is a Star Original comedy series from new talent Emma Moran. The show follows Jen, a young, self-aware woman who lives in a world where everyone has a superpower — except her. From BAFTA, Golden Globe, Emmy and Peabody Award-winning production company Sid Gentle Films, the comedy is about being young and finding your feet in a confusing world, when all you’ll ever be is ‘ordinary.’ Extraordinary is executive produced by Woodward Gentle, Lee Morris (“Killing Eve”) and Charles Dawson, and created by Moran.
Moran described “Extraordinary” as “somewhere between a sitcom and an existential crisis.”
“This is young, female and fresh,” Moran noted. “It’s a story about real life and real identity crises — it just happens to be set in a world where superpowers exist. This show is uniquely British but with universal themes: everyone can relate to the feeling that we don’t quite measure up.”
Woodward Gentle added: “Emma Moran is Extraordinary. An extraordinary new writer with a brilliantly distinctive and ingenious voice. This genre curve-ball will chime with the crises everyone carries with them through their neuroses fuelled lives. We love it and are delighted that Liam and the team at Disney+ are behind us.”
Keelan, Disney’s VP of original content who has steadily built out his team in recent months, said the trifecta of new shows “represent exactly where we want to be with our commissioning strategy for Disney and Star — projects of scale, originality and with top talent attached.”
“This is just the beginning of a concerted push to bring the best ideas and storytellers to the service, appealing to audiences both here in the U.K. and across the globe,” Keelan added.
Johanna Devereaux, director of scripted, noted: “It is a pleasure and a privilege to be working with these exceptional writers and producers. The Walt Disney Company is deeply committed to supporting diverse, ambitious storytelling from renowned creators and brand new voices, and we are thrilled to welcome Sally, J, Emma and their outstanding producing teams to Disney Plus.”
Earlier this week, Disney Plus unveiled its first unscripted original: the David Beckham-fronted “Save Our Squad” from Twenty Twenty and the footballer’s Studio 99 production outfit. Beckham detailed his production strategy in a MipTV keynote.
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