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Claire Danes to Replace Keira Knightley in Apple Series ‘Essex Serpent’

Knightley dropped out last fall over coronavirus-related child care concerns

Clare Danes has been cast to star in Apple TV+’s “Essex Serpent,” replacing Keira Knightley who was originally tapped for the lead role.

Last fall, Knightley pulled out of “The Essex Serpent” ahead of its production start in the U.K. due to coronavirus-related child care concerns. The 35-year-old actress has two daughters with her husband, James Righton: 5-year-old Edie and 13-month-old Delilah. Apple TV+ ordered “The Essex Serpent” to series at the end of August with Knightley attached as star and EP.

“The Essex Serpent” follows newly widowed Cora (Danes) who, having being released from an abusive marriage, relocates from Victorian London to the small village of Aldwinter in Essex, intrigued by a local superstition that a mythical creature known as the Essex Serpent has returned to the area.

The series is set to be directed by Clio Barnard (“The Selfish Giant,” “The Arbor”). Anna Symon (“Deep Water,” “Mrs Wilson”) will serve as lead writer. Excluding Knightley, executive producers include Jamie Laurenson, Hakan Kousetta, Patrick Walters, Iain Canning, Emile Sherman, Barnard and Symon. Andrea Cornwell is a producer.

“The Essex Serpent” will be produced for Apple TV+ by See-Saw Films, and is commissioned for Apple out of the U.K. by Apple’s heads of worldwide video, Zack Van Amburg and Jamie Erlicht, and creative director for Europe Worldwide Video, Jay Hunt. See-Saw Films is the company behind “The King’s Speech” and “Top of the Lake.” The series joins fellow Apple TV+ international series like “Suspicion,” “Slow Horses,” “Echo 3,” “Shantaram,” “Pachinko” and “Masters of the Air.”

Variety first reported Danes’ casting.