Television’s hottest trend in 2016 is Margaret Atwood. Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale miniseries is getting most of the buzz, especially since it stars Elisabeth Moss and Samira Wiley, who are two of the most captivating actors on television and yet don’t have a mountain of awards to show for it. (Moss never won an individual acting award for her work on Mad Men, Wiley has yet to be nominated for an individual acting award, and both of those facts are absurd). Meanwhile, Netflix is all “we want in on that Atwood action, too”: As we previously reported, Netflix is making a six-part miniseries adaptation of Atwood’s 1996 novel Alias Grace, which is being developed by Sarah Polley (Take This Waltz, Away From Her) and Mary Harron (American Psycho, I Shot Andy Warhol). Deadline now reports that Anna Paquin will star in Alias Grace as mainstream television’s favorite type of character: a woman who gets murdered.
Based on actual events, Alias Grace is work of historical fiction that takes place in 1843 and follows Grace Marks (11.22.63’s Sarah Gadon), a young Irish immigrant and domestic worker in Canada who is accused, alongside stablehand James McDermott, of killing their employer, Thomas Kinnear, and the housekeeper, Nancy Montgomery. Paquin will play Nancy, who isn’t just Kinnear’s housekeeper, but his lover, too. Nancy eventually becomes jealous of Kinnear’s affections for Grace and fires her. Later, she’s murdered. Naturally, Grace becomes a prime suspect. In jail, she meets a young doctor who thinks she’s innocent and also falls in love with her.
This marks the first major television role for Paquin since True Blood, but her character is murdered pretty swiftly, so it’s unclear exactly how much screen time she will be getting. In fact, IMDb currently credits her in just the pilot. Sorry, girl.
Polley wrote the teleplay from Atwood’s novel, and the project will be directed by Harron. The novel switches between points of view, and Atwood intentionally didn’t use punctuation so the lines between dialogue and thoughts blur. Harron previously noted that Polley’s script “combines the richness of period drama with the tension and mystery of a modern day Serial,” which honestly sounds pretty amazing.
Filming is already underway in Ontario, and Alias Grace will air on CBC in Canada and on Netflix everywhere else.