The post-Marvel malaise of one Joss Whedon is finally concluding. That’s because Whedon, Marvel Studios’ former embattled directorial fulcrum on the first two Avengers films, will return to television, the medium on which he became a legend. Moreover, Whedon’s new project, titled The Nevers, will have a most promising platform in HBO.
The Nevers has already received a straight-to-series order, with Whedon onboard to juggle duties as writer, director and executive producer, reports THR. He’ll be joined by Buffy alums Doug Petrie and Jane Espenson. According to the trade’s sources, the project’s acquisition by premium cable outlet HBO was the culmination of a bidding war amongst a group of high-profile platforms that included Netflix.
Now Whedon, the small screen maestro who turned a campy movie into the beloved Buffy The Vampire Slayer television franchise, will return to the medium for The Nevers.
The Nevers plot
The show is described as a science fiction drama about a gang of Victorian women who gain “unusual abilities” and subsequently use their powers to fight “relentless enemies” and engage in missions with global implications.
The Nevers cast
Laura Donnelly has nabbed the starring role on The Nevers, reports Deadline. She will play Amalia True, described as “the most reckless, impulsive, emotionally damaged hero of her time. A menace to stuffy Victorian society, she would die for the cause and kill for a drink.”
Besides being an accomplished actress on stage, the Belfast-born Donnelly is best known from her role as Jenny Fraser on Starz’s Outlander. She’s also appeared on Britannia, miniseries Beowulf: Return To The Shieldlands, The Fall, Merlin and had an American television run on the short-lived 2012 ABC drama series, Missing.
Whedon said the following about the casting:
“Laura Donnelly has charisma, wisdom and an anarchic precision that not only captures Amalia but defines her. She’s fierce and she’s funny – and I need both for the journey ahead.”
TVLine has revealed the rest of the cast and their roles:
Olivia Williams (Counterpart) as Lavinia Bidlow, a “wealthy spinster and champion of the ‘Touched.’ Lavinia funds the Orphanage — where Amalia and many of the Touched live — through her vast family fortune. She is stern and old-fashioned, but as strong-willed and clever as anyone she confronts.”
James Norton (McMafia) as Hugo Swann, a “pansexual posh boy whose charm has about five years left on its lease. He runs a secret club and a side trade in blackmail. He’s devoted to fulfilling everyone’s worst impression of him – and fascinated by the Touched.”
Tom Riley (Da Vinci’s Demons) as Augustus “Augie” Bidlow, a “sweet, disarming nerd and Lavinia’s younger brother. A keen ornithologist, Augie is happy to let his older sister take the reins of the family fortune. He finds the Touched unnerving, but is drawn to them by his increasing infatuation with Miss Adair, and by the schemes of his nefarious best friend, Hugo.”
Ann Skelly (Vikings) as Penance Adair, “Amalia’s dearest friend and one of the first women to join her cause. A devout — yet heretically progressive — Irish girl, Penance has genius for invention. She is delighted by her power, and her default is love and acceptance. But she’s firm in her moral sense, and will be guided by what’s right over what’s expedient every time.”
Ben Chaplin (Cinderella) as Detective Frank Mundi. “Big, gruff, and deeply moral, Detective Mundi trusts no one, least of all himself: his reputation for sudden violence (and excessive drink) is not unwarranted. Frank finds himself caught between the powerful, who ignore the the laws of the land, and newly empowered, who ignore the laws of physics.”
Pip Torrens (Poldark) as Lord Massen. “Staunch, unflappable and merciless in his defense of the British Empire, this former General, now Peer, may be the only man who sees clearly what havoc these few strange people can wreak upon the established order — which he will protect, one way or another.”
Zackary Momoh (Harriet) as Doctor Horatio Cousens, “one of the few successful West Indian physicians in London. Married with a young son, Horatio’s fortunes took a dark turn when he met Amalia and discovered his own ability. Now he works with her and the Beggar King, those who don’t care who is or isn’t ‘different.’”
Amy Manson (Once Upon A Time) as Maladie. “Committed by her husband (and genuinely unstable), she’s been warped by a power she can’t understand, and tortured by doctors intent on finding its source. She now lives underground, runs a gang and is on an infamous murder spree. She affects a theatrical parody of a bedlam waif, but mad as she is, she’s a woman with a purpose.”
Nick Frost (Into The Badlands) as Declan Orrun, aka The Beggar King. “Charismatic and brutal, Declan runs — or has a piece of — most of the low-level criminal activity in the city. He’s perfectly happy to help Amalia and her cause, and equally happy to sell them out. He backs winners, and the Touched are long odds.”
Rochelle Neil (Episodes) as Annie Carbey, aka Bonfire. “Annie is a career criminal who landed the ability to control fire and is happy to hire it out. Came up rough, stayed that way, but she’s neither impulsive nor cruel — just looking out for herself. No matter who she works with or for, Annie trusts only Annie, and the fire.”
Eleanor Tomlinson (The White Queen) as Mary Brighton. “Gentle but surprisingly resilient, Mary pursued her dream of singing on stage. A disappointing career and a broken engagement haven’t diminished her spirit. She’s going to be great. She’s going to be very surprised how.”
Denis O’Hare (True Blood) as Dr. Edmund Hague, a “gifted American surgeon. He uses his skills in the coldest, most brutal way possible — but it’s all in the name of progress!”
The Nevers release date
The series is currently without an air date, but it’ll eventually land on HBO, so Sky Atlantic are likely to be the UK broadcaster as per the current partnership deal.
“I honestly couldn’t be more excited,” said Whedon about HBO picking the series up. “The Nevers is maybe the most ambitious narrative I’ve created, and I can’t imagine a better home for it than HBO. Not only are they the masters of cinematic longform, but their instant understanding of my odd, intimate epic was as emotional as it was incisive. It’s been too long since I created an entirely new fictional world, and the HBO team offer not just scope and experience, not just ‘prestige,’ but a passionate collaboration. I could go on, but — I’m impatiently grateful to say — I have work to do.”
The Nevers creator
Whedon first cemented his reputation as a staff writer on Roseanne and Parenthood before his star-making vehicles running Buffy The Vampire Slayer, its spinoff, Angel, along with the martyred fan-favourite sci-fi Western series, Firefly, as well as the cult comedy musical, Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, all before the opportunity to direct 2012 Marvel mega-movie The Avengers came along. However, after his Marvel tenure imploded with the tumultuous production of 2015’s Avengers: Age Of Ultron, he took a hiatus, eventually drifting back onto the comic book movie scene, touted as the director of Warner’s upcoming DC Extended Universe offering, Batgirl… until he dropped out.
For Whedon, The Nevers marks a monumental comeback to television. While he’s always been involved in the medium in some capacity, notably brandishing credit as an executive producer on ABC’s Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D., his work on the HBO series represents his first proper hands-on small screen tenure since his short-lived 2009 Fox sci-fi series, Dollhouse.