After taking on politics and the American prison system with House of Cards and Orange is the New Black, respectively, Netflix is looking to the high seas for its next original series. Marco Polo, based on the life of the famed explorer, was green-lit back in January, and now the streaming giant has secured an all-international cast to lead the series, planned to run for 10 episodes.
Lorenzo Richelmy will star as the titular explorer, whose journeys take him into the center of a vicious war raging in 13th century China, into “a world replete with exotic martial arts, political skullduggery, spectacular battles and sexual intrigue,” according to the official press release. The Italian actor is almost entirely unknown to American audiences, though he did star in the 2010 film Fat Cat, for which he won an acting award at the Brussels International Film Festival.
Richelmy is joined by multiple actors who have played supporting roles in successful blockbusters. Benedict Wong (Prometheus), Zhu Zhu (Cloud Atlas), Tom Wu (Skyfall), Rick Yune (Olympus Has Fallen) and Remy Hii (Treading Water) all co-star. Out of those actors, stateside audiences will be most likely to recognize Yune, who played the head mercenary responsible for a White House takeover in Olympus.
John Fusco (Young Guns II) created the series, which he’s executive producing with Harvey Weinstein and Dan Minahan (Game of Thrones). Joachim Ronning and Espen Sandberg, the directors of acclaimed high-seas adventure Kon-Tiki, are set to helm the first two episodes, while Minahan will also sit in the director’s chair for two episodes.
In an official statement, Weinstein said:
“Television audiences today are more discerning than ever before both in terms of character and the scope of the worlds those characters live in… We are proud to present a series that rivals some of the most successful films we’ve ever made. Marco Polo is a figure all have heard of but few truly know, and we are excited to introduce him to the world. And we are shooting all over the world. From the sweeping vistas of Kazakhstan, which act as backdrop for the wars and conquests of Kublai Khan to the intimate moments within the alleys and canals of Marco’s hometown of Venice, Italy, this is spectacle in the truest sense of the word.”
Netflix’s chief content officer Ted Sarandos added:
“John, Dan, Joachim, Espen and our partners at The Weinstein Co. are elevating the art of storytelling and delivering cinematic quality that we’re certain our members will enjoy. In this commanding, epic story of Marco Polo, through the magnetic cast they’ve assembled, the spectacular martial arts work they are showcasing and the exotic locations that serve as a backdrop, they have really outdone themselves.”
With the success of Starz’s Black Sails, perhaps it’s time for sea-set adventure dramas to make a comeback. Netflix and TWC are certainly confident in Marco Polo‘s quality, and though it’s early days for the miniseries, I’m already impressed by the show’s canniness in avoiding whitewashing. With the talented cast they’ve enlisted, Marco Polo will definitely be an interesting watch and mark exciting new territory for Netflix.
Marco Polo will begin filming soon in Italy, Kazakhstan and Malaysia. The show is scheduled for a late 2014 release date on Netflix.
Source: The Hollywood Reporter