Castle alumStana Katic, Sarah Megan Thomas (Equity), and Radhika Apte(Padman) are set to star in an untitled female-driven WW II spy drama set to begin principal photography this spring. Linus Roache (Batman Begins) and Rossif Sutherland (River) also have been cast in the project, based on the real-life spies in Winston Churchill’s “secret army”, from Thomas and Lydia Dean Pilcher (Queen of Katwe).
The film centers on British intelligence officer Vera Atkins, played by Katic, and two of the women she sends to France as spies, Virginia Hall (Thomas) and Noor Inayat Khan (Apte). Atkins is a crafty recruiter with a secret of her own. Hall is a daring American with a wooden leg who was the first female field agent and ultimately the spy the Nazi’s dubbed “the most dangerous of all,” and Khan is a pacifist of Indian descent who was the first female wireless operator. These civilian women form a sisterhood while entangled in missions to turn the tide of the war.
Thomas wrote the screenplay and will produce with Lydia Dean Pilcher (Queen of Katwe) who is set to direct.
Katic, who played Kate Beckett for eight seasons on ABC’s Castle, stars in Sony Pictures Television Networks’ thriller drama series Absentia, which is currently streaming on Amazon. Her feature credits include CBGB, Big? Sur, The Spirit, Feast of Love, The Double and Bond franchise installment Quantum of Solace.
Thomas’ latest film, Equity, which she co-wrote, produced and starred in, premiered at at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival and was bought by Sony Pictures Classics. She also starred opposite James Van Der Beek in the feature Backwards.
Apte recently starred in the hit Bollywood film Padman and will star opposite Dev Patel in Michael Winterbottom’s upcoming feature The Wedding Guest.
Thomas is repped by Bresker Kelly, Leigh Brillstein Management and Nelson Davis. Katic is repped by Gersh, Principal LA, and Nelson Davis. Apte is repped by Curtis Brown.
For eight seasons, Stana Katic made Castle a must-see for crime TV fans.
The actress stole the show as detective Kate Beckett. And alongside her co-star, Nathan Fillion, she turned the series into one of the best shows on TV.
Which is why it came as a complete shock when the star was released from her contract ahead of the show’s ninth season.
Unsurprisingly, Castle was cancelled shortly after.
Luckily for us, the 39-year-old is back on the small screen. Catching up with TV WEEK, Stana chats about her role in Amazon Prime’s latest drama, Absentia.
What is Absentia about?
We start the story six years after my character, Emily, has been kidnapped. She was an FBI agent who was on the hunt for one of Boston’s biggest serial killers. Emily is believed to be dead and is declared so.
At the beginning of the story, we’re in court with the person who is believed to have killed her.
But we find out that she’s actually alive. She has been in what is the equivalent of a torture situation for these past six years.
Why did you think this was the right role to bring you back to television?
When I spoke to my agents about what we should be on the lookout for, I told them I didn’t want to play a mum, and I didn’t want to play someone’s girlfriend.
Traditionally, from what I’ve seen, those characters are tools in the story. They’re not actually driving the story.
Then, when I read for Emily, I was really surprised to find a character who happened to be, in so many ways, all of those things.
She held all of those titles, but was very much driving this story forward.
How is it different to Castle?
Castle was beautiful because it was a romantic-comedy procedural. It was charming. This story is challenging.
Filming Absentia was also challenging because we cross boarded the entire series. That means, we shot any episode at any point in time throughout the series. So I had days where I was shooting episode one in the morning, then episode five in the afternoon and episode three in the evening.
Have you made peace with how Castle handled your exit?
I was confused by the entire experience, and I was hurt. But that was two years ago. Since then, I genuinely look back on that experience and am thankful to have been part of that project.
It’d be a disservice to the work I did to be anything but grateful for an awesome run.
Absentia, toplined by former Castle star Stana Katic in her return to television, has tapped a new showrunner, Samantha Corbin-Miller (ABC’s Conviction) as the Sony Pictures Television Networks’ crime thriller drama is plotting a second season, sources said.
No one is commenting but I hear that Absentia is in the process of being renewed by Amazon Prime Video, which is the series’ exclusive U.S. home and also carries it in several international markets, including the U.K., Australia, Germany, India, Israel, Italy, Austria, Netherlands, Singapore, South Korea, and Turkey. According to sources, Absentia may be getting a multi-season renewal for seasons 2 and 3.
Absentia, created by Gaia Violo and Matt Cirulnick based on a pilot script by Violo. centers on FBI agent Emily Byrne (Katic). While hunting one of Boston’s most notorious serial killers, Agent Byrne disappears without a trace and is declared dead. Six years later, Emily is found in a cabin in the woods, barely alive, and with no memory of the years she was missing. Returning home to learn her husband has remarried and her son is being raised by another woman, she soon finds herself implicated in a new series of murders.
As part of becoming the new showrunner, Corbin-Miller is expected to take over running the writers room from Cirulnick who did it in Season 1.
The series’ first season was directed by Oded Ruskin who executive produced alongside Katic, Cirulnick, Julie Glucksman, and Maria Feldman.
Absentia started with a 10-episode straight-to-series order by Sony Pictures Television Networks’ AXN for premiere on AXN’s worldwide channels and a plan to seek distribution in the U.S. and outside of AXN’s footprint once the show was completed. It landed at Amazon after launching on Sony’s AXN channels last fall, ranking as the number one program in its time slot when it debuted in Spain, Portugal, Romania and Poland.
Absentia, which also is believed to have done well on Amazon since its February debut, co-stars Patrick Heusinger as Emily’s husband and fellow FBI agent Nick as well as Cara Theobold, Neil Jackson, Angel Bonanni, Richard Brake, Ralph Ineson, Paul Freeman, Bruno Bichir and Patrick McAuley.
Corbin-Miller most recently served as co-executive producer on the ABC legal drama Convictions. Her extensive TV series credits also include stints on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Crossing Jordan, Cold Case and ER.
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On whether she feels there is a bit of a societal pressure now happening finally:
This is an exciting, wonderful gift we are being given. It’s not just women. It’s minorities. It’s people who perhaps have different sexualities. An underrepresented group, suddenly gets representation in a position of decision making that has reverberating effects across the globe.
For that reason, our stories will only become more and more interesting. We will have a broader range of stories to tell. I want to see those stories. I want to see the stories about the Deep South and I want to see the stories from minority groups in the middle of Thailand or what not. I want to see those stories, those are true. I relate to those stories because those are human stories and it’s not man/woman, black/white, Asian/European, those are human stories. That’s my soapbox.
On whether she has found her voice especially as an executive producer of “Absentia” and after her abrupt exit from “Castle”:
Do I think I found my voice? Good question. I feel like I am growing constantly. I feel like I am learning and understanding what it means to take on these different positions and roles in filmmaking and in entertainment. I am fortunate to be partnered up with Sony on this project because they have been so welcoming. A lot of our Executive Producers are women and I think that they have just approached it in a very kind of, let’s come to the table, best idea wins sort of way and that is a really wonderful and really comfortable space to work from. So I feel like I am growing into what it means to have that voice and be that collaborator and truly trying to be the best partner that I can in that situation.
After her abrupt, controversial exit from ABC’s “Castle,” Stana Katic wanted more creative control over her next TV project, “Absentia.”
“They were open to the idea of me participating as an executive producer,” she says about her new Amazon series. “It was really nice to have a voice. In today’s landscape in Hollywood, I think it behooves a woman — when we have the opportunity to have a seat at the table — to take it.”
Like “Castle,” “Absentia” concerns crime, though that’s where their similarities end. While “Castle” — in which Katic co-starred with Nathan Fillion — was a dramedy procedural, “Absentia” is a thriller. Katic plays FBI agent Emily Byrne, who reappears six years after she’s declared dead. To make matters worse, she has no memory of the missing time. Upon her return, she finds that her husband has remarried and she’s implicated in a new series of murders.
After “Castle’s” eighth season, ABC announced that Katic would not be part of a potential ninth season with Fillion, reportedly due to “budgetary reasons.” It was an unpleasant surprise for Katic.
(And “Castle” never did return for a ninth season.)
But Katic says that filmmaking is also one of her longtime interests — another reason she was drawn to “Absentia.” “Regardless of any experiences in the past, for me it really is important to be engrossed in as much as the creative process as I possibly can,” she says. “I was surprised with how much the eight years I spent on ‘Castle’ actually serviced that. I ended up, in a way, having a free education on that show.
“I would always ask a lot of questions of the producers and the directors. It was a subtle absorption of information that I was able to then turn around and, I believe, created added value for this new project.”
One unexpected aspect of her “Absentia” role, however, is the fact that Emily is a mother. Although Katic had many offers after “Castle,” she had specific limits in mind.
“I [told my agent], ‘This sounds terrible but I don’t want to play a mom and I don’t want to play a girlfriend or the wife-of.’ In many stories, those characters are just worrying and that’s it,” she says. “That’s their role in the entire movie or series — they just worry and they’re not a part of the actual arc or engine that moves the story along.”
But when “Absentia” came to her attention, she perked up.
“This is one of the few roles that I saw where, yes, this woman has a kid and that plays into the story, but she has an amazing relationship with this child. She’s so much more. She’s a badass, she’s a survivor of something extreme. Being able to play with all of those dimensions was really exciting.”
Her main sources of inspiration to play Emily might be surprising: Cillian Murphy and Tom Hardy.
“I love Cillian Murphy’s character in ‘Peaky Blinders’ and Tom Hardy’s in ‘Taboo’ — theses are characters that as audience members, we follow along with and root for,” she says. “But our own morality is tested throughout that journey, because these characters ride a thin line between morality and amorality.
“I think that’s really interesting.”