Keira Knightley has pulled out of Apple TV+ series “The Essex Serpent” ahead of its production start in the U.K. due to coronavirus-related child-care concerns.
A representative for Knightley, who was going to both star on and executive produce the adaptation of Sarah Perry’s novel, said in a statement to TheWrap on Monday, “Keira had to unfortunately pull out of the Essex Serpent due to family reasons. As the Covid cases increase in the UK and additional lockdown and restriction rules are potentially being imposed, with so many unknowns, there wasn’t a comfortable scenario for Keira that could be put in place for an extended period of child care required for the 4.5 month production.”
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 streaming service has now delayed the start of production on the project in order to find a new leading lady, an individual with knowledge tells TheWrap.
Representatives for Apple TV+ and Knightley did not immediately respond to TheWrap’s request for comment.
“The Essex Serpent” follows newly widowed Cora (meant to be played by Knightley) 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.”