29 November 2021 The Irish Film & Television Network

Irish Film and Television Network




Production News

Actor Aidan Gillen and Vikings director Stephen Saint Leger join Subotica's Gaelic Epic The O’Neill
01 Oct 2021 : Nathan Griffin
Aidan Gillen
Game of Thrones and Kin star Aiden Gillen has been cast as one of the lead in The O’Neill, a Gaelic epic from Irish production company Subotica (Michael Inside) that tells the story of Irish Gaelic lord, Hugh O’Neill.

The show will be helmed by Stephen Saint Leger, director of upcoming Netflix series Vikings: Valhalla, who will direct the series pilot as well as several other episodes.

The O’Neill will be showrun by Oscar nominee and writer Tim Loane, a lead writer on Sky/Hulu’s Das Boot and showrunner Versailles Season 3 for Canal Plus. Subotica will produce the series that will consist of four eight-hour seasons.

Jack Armstrong of Dublin’s Revolution Media originated the series concept, which will follow Hugh Ó Neill, as his clan leads the resistance against the Tudor conquest of Ireland during the Nine Years’ War. Earlier this month, Armstrong presented the series at Conecta Fiction’s Pitch CoPro Series, the event’s industry centrepiece where it presented some of the biggest and most ambitious titles at the Europe-Latin Ameica co-production forum.

Pitched as an epic drama series, Variety has said that The O’Neill “follows Ireland’s O’Neill dynasty, its most powerful Gaelic lordship, as in 1560 a nine-year-old Hugh O’Neill is taken from his native Ireland and groomed as an English Lord at the English Court where he forms a tight bond with the future Queen Elizabeth I, only 10 years his senior.

“Sent back to Ireland after he came of age to govern for the crown, he has to decide between becoming an English landlord or a Gaelic warlord. His decision would mark the greatest threat to England sovereignty until WWII.”

Gillen will take on the role of Sir Henry Bagnal, Marshall of Elizabeth I’s Royal Irish Army, and O’Neill’s sworn enemy.

“Almost always the narrative is the glory of Empire from the colonists’ perspective; we will do a 180 on the period and view events through the eyes of the vanquished, the colonized, of Gaelic Ireland,” showrunner Loane told Variety, who described The O’Neill as “Braveheart for television”.

Tristan Open Lynch and Aolfe O’Sullivan of Subotica will produce alongside Jack Armstrong for Revolution Media. Armstrong, Loane, and historian James Sheridan are said to have spent months researching the period. “This is big, ambitious epic, but also based on real characters and events, and also contemporary, resonating with many of the values emerging in Europe today,” Armstrong told Variety.

“Hugh O’Neill managed to unite the clans, which had never happened before, and engaged in what was called the Nine Years War but was really the climax of a 400 years’ war with England, the last gasp of great Gaelic Ireland.  For much of Europe at the time, he was like a rock star,” Armstrong added. “A pilot has been written, as well as a bible for the first season, and the storyline of the subsequent three.”

“In Gaelic Ireland, women had equal standing to men and so it was not uncommon for women to be clan leaders.  So there are many female leaders depicted in ‘The O’Neill, like Ineen Dubh, de facto leader of the O’Donnells and Grace O’Malley, the Pirate Queen, The O’Malley,” Armstrong added. “This is an incredibly important story for the Irish and there are so many great roles, not just for men but also women.”

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