Helen Mirren has been tempted back to the world of TV drama with the star role in Sky and HBO mini-series Catherine the Great.


Here's everything you need to know...

When is Catherine the Great set to air?

The entire four-part series will air on Sky Atlantic and NOW TV on Thursday 3rd October 2019, with a linear broadcast taking place from 9pm.

The series will air on HBO in the US.

Catherine the Great trailer

What is Catherine the Great about?

According to Sky, this four-part drama "delves into the politically tumultuous and sexually charged court of the most powerful female monarch in history. Catherine wielded supreme power throughout Russia for nearly half of the 18th century – strong-minded, independent, brilliantly intelligent and sexually liberated, she was the definition of the modern woman."

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Catherine the Great was born in 1729 and became Empress of Russia in 1762, reigning until her death in 1796. That makes her the country's longest-ruling female leader.

This TV miniseries will follow Catherine towards the end of her reign and will put the spotlight on her passionate affair with Grigory Potemkin, played by Jason Clarke.

Catherine The Great

"Amid scandal, intrigue and immense conflict, this is a story of obsessive love," Sky says. "Unable to publicly marry and famously promiscuous, they develop a unique and devoted relationship, overcoming their adversaries and together shaping Russia as we know it today."

The series will be written and directed by people who have formerly collaborated with Mirren, while the actress will also serve as executive producer.

Writer Nigel Williams, who previously won both a Golden Globe and Emmy Award for Mirren's 2005 series Elizabeth I, is on board for the project – as is Philip Martin, who previously directed Mirren in Prime Suspect.

Who is in the cast of Catherine the Great?

Catherine the Great

Oscar-winning actress Helen Mirren takes the lead as Catherine the Great, returning to the small screen for the first time in years. The actress's many, many credits include Prime Suspect, Elizabeth I, The Queen, The Madness of King George, Gosford Park and The Last Station.

“I am very excited by the possibility of embodying a woman from history who grabbed and then wielded great power,” Mirren said. “She rewrote the rules of governance by a woman, and succeeded to the extent of having the word Great attached to her name, Catherine the Great."

Jason Clarke will play Russian nobleman Grigory Potemkin, a favourite of Catherine the Great. In recent years Clarke has appeared in the movies Pet Semetary (as Louis Creed), The Aftermath, First Man, Chappaquiddick, Terminator Genisys, and Mudbound.

Gina McKee will play Catherine's confidant Praskovya Bruce. The Bafta-winning actress is perhaps best known to TV fans from her work with Jed Mercurio – playing Anne Sampson in Bodyguard and Jackie Laverty in Line of Duty. McKee has also starred in Notting Hill, Phantom Thread, In the Loop, The Lost Prince, The Borgias, and The Forsyte Saga.

Rory Kinnear (of Years and Years, The Imitation Game and Skyfall) is set to star as Catherine's political mentor Nikita Ivanovich Panin.

Moulin Rouge actor Richard Roxburgh will play Grigory Orlov, a noble favourite of Catherine the Great who fathered her son and was virtually co-ruler with her until his fall.

Where was Catherine the Great filmed?

The entrance gate to Rundale palace (1736-1768), Latvia. (Getty Images)
The entrance gate to Rundale palace (1736-1768), Latvia. (Getty Images)

Most of the filming for the series took place around Lithuania, Latvia and Russia, while several palaces were also used for key scenes, including Rundale Palace (above) in Latvia for exteriors, corridors, Countess Bruce's quarters and for the cross-dressing ball at the end of episode one.

Catherine the Great

The Pazaislis Monastery in Kaunas, Lithuania was used for the soldiers' barracks, the mortuary and Paul’s coming of age ceremony, while Vilnius (also in Lithuania) was used for multiple locations including the council rooms and Catherine and Prince Paul's rooms.

Catherine the Great

Several palaces in Russia were also used, including Peterhof Palace, for the fountains scene when Catherine and Lady Bruce encounter Potemkin; Gatchina Palace, for Prince Paul’s palace; and the Yusupovkiy Palace, for the theatre scenes in episode two.

Poseidon statue and Grand Palace, by Bartolomeo Rastrelli (1700-1771), Peterhof, near Saint Petersburg (UNESCO World Heritage List, 1990). Russia, 18th century. (Getty Images)
Poseidon statue and Grand Palace, by Bartolomeo Rastrelli (1700-1771), Peterhof, near Saint Petersburg. (Getty Images)