From HBO’s Game of Thrones to Starz’s Outlander, high-fantasy series are increasingly in demand on the small screen. This past summer, MTV announced its intentions to get in on the action, ordering a 10-episode first season of Shannara, based on Terry Brooks’ massive fantasy book series. Now, the first bit of casting news for the show has emerged, with word that Downton Abbey actress Poppy Drayton has landed a lead role.
Shannara is set thousands of years in the future, long after our civilization has been destroyed, and follows the Shannara family, whose descendants possess an ancient magic. Their dangerous adventures have the potential to dramatically change the world they live in. This first season, which is written by Smallville creators Al Gough and Miles Millar, will adapt The Elfstones of Shannara, the second book in Brooks’ series.
Drayton will play Amberle Elessedil, an Elven Princess. Strong-willed, quick-witted and physically agile, she has become the first female to be accepted as one of the Chosen, a special group of Elves tasked with protecting and caring for the ancient Ellcrys tree. Unlike the other Chosen, however, Amberle’s journey is just beginning, and her path will take her to places she never could have imagined.
Jonathan Liebesman (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) is set to direct the first two installments of the series, taking over from Jon Favreau, who was previously set to direct but had a scheduling conflict. Liebesman will exec-produce along with Favreau, Brooks, Gough, Millar and Dan Farah.
If Shanarra is a success for MTV, it could easily last for many seasons – there are about 25 installments in Brooks’ series, which up until MTV’s involvement ranked as the highest-selling un-adapted fantasy book series in the world. The Elfstones of Shannara spent an astonishing 16 weeks on the New York Times Bestsellers’ List back when it was first published in 1982, and the series as a whole has more than 26 million copies in print. Put simply, it’s incredible that Shanarra lasted without an adaptation for as long as it did.