NBC Orders 'Epic' Cleopatra Pilot from Lorenzo Di Bonaventura -- Who Should Star?

All hail the queen… of Egypt.

NBC has given a put pilot order to an “epic” take on Cleopatra, the last pharaoh of Ancient Egypt, our sister site Deadline reports.

Written by Michael Seitzman and coproduced by ABC Studios and filmmaker Lorenzo Di Bonaventura’s eponymous shingle, the series would be set in “a world of sorcery, gods and monsters” and revolve around Cleopatra, Mark Antony and Julius Caesar, “an infamous love triangle that changes the course of history, forever ending the 4,000-year dominion of the Pharaoh.”

Cleo’s suicide [er, spoiler alert!] would be saved for the series finale, I reckon, unless the project is one giant in media res thing.

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Seitzman this past pilot season penned the fashion-themed sudser Americana, which fell just shy of getting picked up by ABC, while Di Bonaventura — who like Seitzman has a deal at ABC Studios — successfully sold the Anthony Edwards-fronted conspiracy thriller Zero Hour, to bow at midseason for ABC.

The “put pilot” status for their Cleopatra tale means NBC would pay a penalty if it never sees the light of day, so… it’s almost a sure thing.

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A new big-screen take on Cleopatra has been talked about for some time, to star Angelina Jolie and be directed by David Fincher. Who is your pick to play the regal icon for NBC? (Put your hand down, Lindsay Lohan….)

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131 Comments
  1. Mark says:

    Halle Berry or Frieda Pinto for the win!

    • dude says:

      Neither of those are the right race. Cleopatra is of Mediterranean descent so she should be played by a greek or caucasian actress.

      • Keren says:

        Have you been to Egypt and/or looked at Egyptian people? To me they are very ethnically diverse, so Cleopatra can be a beautiful woman from a wide range of races

        • Emma says:

          True, but Cleopatra was, in reality, Greek.

          • Iyabo says:

            SHE WAS AFRICAN PEOPLE…LOOK AT THE MAP EGYPT IS IN AFRICA dont believe the hollywood hype love Liz Taylor but demographically they were africans of various hues…the beauty of the black people

      • lechatnoir says:

        Cleopatra was allegedly part african and part mediterranean. A mixed race actress looks the part.

        HALLE BERRY FOR THE WIN . I am sure they’ll cast the usual boring nordic type .

        My second choice is Liya Kebede.

        • Sean C. says:

          She was not part African, by any historical evidence (beyond being born in Africa, of course, but she wasn’t black). The idea that she was is a persistent but inaccurate myth. Cleopatra’s Ptolemaic dynasty was primarily of Macedonian Greek (European) descent, with some intermarriage believed with Persian/Parthian nobility. So a mix of Greek and Iranian.

          • lechatnoir says:

            Scholars insist she had to be part african ( as in black ) and part mediterranean. Maybe you should stop posing as a scholar because your theory is just your own. Even if she was part indian it would not justify the blonde cleoptra shoves down our throats.

            This means someone like Halle looks the part . It is not difficult to find a much younger mixed race actress . Jurnee smullet comes to mind , hell even Denise Vasi could kill it.

          • Sean C. says:

            No, scholars don’t insist that. It’s a fringe theory propagated by some people based on a mistaken interpretation of the supposed bones of Cleopatra’s half-sister Arsinoe IV.

            The idea that Cleopatra was part-black is based on the idea that Arsinoe IV was, and quite apart from the fact that the idea that she was is highly problematic, Arsinoe was Cleopatra’s half-sister, ie, they had different mothers. Cleopatra’s mother is most commonly held to be Cleopatra V, her father’s sister/cousin.

      • Iyabo says:

        no Cleo is from AFRICA…Egypt is in AFRICA

    • Templar says:

      Too old. Cleo died at 19.

  2. Sam says:

    With something this expensive, they have to pick a pretty big star, right? If I heard HBO was doing this, I’d be über-excited. But NBC? They have no money!

    • Gerald says:

      Actually NBC has more money than HBO, since one of them is a broadcast network and the other one cable.

      • What I think Sam meant is that they put less money in per show than HBO does. The quality of an HBO show v. an NBC show is significantly better. Game of Thrones couldn’t have happened on NBC. Period.

        That being said, I think Rosario Dawson could rock that role out of the park.

        • TheBeach says:

          Agreed. The networks can’t or won’t spend the money it takes to put on an expensive and authentic period series like HBO or Showtime do. Can you imagine Game of Thrones, The Tudors, Boardwalk Empire, Rome or The Borgias on one of the networks…Yikes !

  3. Kim R says:

    Archie Panjabi…..she’d be fantastic. :)

  4. shuayb says:

    I wonder if they are gonna use any ounce of mythology surrounding cleopatra? I think this is gonna be a MASSIVE flop. What they should really do is adapt the Rick Riordan series about Egypt in modern day society. The Kane Chronicles are amazing and a live action tv series would be SUPERB….

    • Joan says:

      “…the series would be set in “a world of sorcery, gods and monsters…”

    • Mikael says:

      At the very least, The Kane Chronicles is screaming for a film franchise. And since Riordan’s other series Percy Jackson has been ruined by its movie, I would pray that Kane Chronicles would be done right. It was a very well-done trilogy.

  5. Melosm says:

    If the actress that played Rebecca on Greek wasn’t already set to star on Revenge, I would say she is perfect.

  6. Dominik says:

    Natalie Morales!

  7. Brett says:

    Christa Miller

  8. Lauren says:

    Reblogged this on Lauren's Playground and commented:
    NBC Pilot News: period dramas aren’t always about lords, ladies and ma’ams. Sometimes they’re about pharaohs.

  9. SL says:

    How about Morena Baccarin?

    • Paul says:

      She’s the best option I’ve heard so far.

    • daviduter says:

      Was just logging in to suggest her. First actress who came to mind.

    • Holly says:

      Yes! She would be awesome as Cleopatra. But I don’t think she’s leaving Homeland anytime soon because the show is doing well.

    • Britta Unfiltered says:

      I love that idea as she definitely has the right look of the Hellenistic queen. But I think she is a bit committed to Homeland, plus I think she’s just a tad outside the historically correct age range. I have my doubts NBC is going to care much about casting someone the correct age though.

      • Temperence says:

        NBC is not the CW – there won’t be any teen queen Cleos running around. I think a 25-35 year old lead is far more likely.

    • Joan says:

      Yes!! That would be amazing. And correct me If I’m wrong, but she could still be on this show without leaving Homeland. They shoot on different parts of the year, right?

  10. Scribe says:

    Eva Green or Morena Baccarin

  11. Luc says:

    Kristin Kreuk (in case Beauty and the Beast fails)
    She already wore the costume in an episode of Smallville and looked stunning!

  12. DL says:

    Valentina Cervi.

  13. Mína says:

    It’s cute that you guys think any suit would sanction a POC to take the lead. So excited for Minka Kelly as Cleopatra!

  14. Fox says:

    Morena Baccarin, Valentina Cervi, Catarina Murino, Leonor Varela

  15. AT says:

    What about Jessica Szohr? She kind of has an original look that would work for Cleopatra.

  16. Craig says:

    Marion Cotillard

  17. JE Ster says:

    Considering that Cleopatra was Macedonian Greek and not Egyptian she should be played by a Greek actress. And considering that she was NOT physically attractive (but very charismatic, intelligent and well-educated), the chosen actress’ physical attributes should reflect the reality of the historical character.

    • Alienate says:

      Therefore it should be Lady Gaga!!!!

    • Temperence says:

      You do realize that you are supposed to be casting a network TV show, right? Of course, the actor they choose will be a beautiful young lady.

      • JE Ster says:

        You’re probably right and it’s a sad commentary that the entertainment industry can’t present a historically accurate portrait.

        • mary says:

          I have a feeling that all the actors will all be very good looking people and all in their 20s or 30s. Nevermind that Cleopatra was never said to be a great beauty, a model will be chosen for the part. Caesar was 52 when he met Cleopatra but in this show it will be some hot young actor who looks good in a toga.

  18. Leo says:

    Morena Baccarin would be an epic choice. But would Homeland allow her to do it?
    Paula Patton or Thandie Newton maybe.

  19. Templar says:

    Mila Kunis or Vanessa Marano would be close in age and coloring.

  20. TheDude says:

    95% of these suggestions are too old

  21. Kiki says:

    Someone who looks the part.

  22. Soso says:

    Olivia Wilde !!!

  23. Polly says:

    It’s an NBC show, so probably someone that has another sure job, cause this is probably going to last as long as the playboy club xD

  24. Britta Unfiltered says:

    I’m not really sure any young actresses in Hollywood today have the right age, gravitas, and right look to pull off this part. If anyone comes close, it might be Alison Brie. She’s proved she can do period pieces and can hold an audience captive, and she can pull off being 19. I have a strong feeling NBC is going to cast this part way too old, and it’s going to make me mad, because I’m a stickler for accuracy in period pieces. I’m also terrified some Twihard is going to get on here and suggest Kristen Stewart. And then I would have to punch them and say “No, twihard. Just no,” to that awkward, gangly mess.

    • Mary says:

      I love Alison Brie on Community but age-wise I don’t know if she’s a good fit. She currently plays a 21 year-old but looks closer to 30. Cleopatra was 17 when she began her reign and 21 by the time she met Caeser who was in his 50s. So I hope age is factored into the casting decisions.

    • Remy says:

      What kind of heinous white washing are you suggesting? No thanks.

  25. Mik says:

    Mia Maestro, Vanessa Ferlito or Michelle Forbes. They might not be big names like Halle Berry and what not, but I still think they would be nice fits, except Forbes might be too old (although she isn’t very old at all….but you know…Hollywood old).

    • Sam says:

      Even though there’s no way on god’s green earth a network would cast someone as old as Michelle Forbes, she’d be excellent.
      Maybe if a pay cable network was doing it.

    • Rolo says:

      Wow, Mia Meastro was the first woman i thought. She would be awesome as Cleo.

  26. Sean C. says:

    This is the sort of project that I think would be poorly-suited to network TV.

  27. King says:

    Lucy Lawless my first choicebutif they want a younger actress I wouldkike to see Viva Bianca of Spartacus. Would love to see Katrina Law too but she doesn’t look like an Egyptian.

  28. Amanda says:

    it depends on whether they start her at the beginning of her reign or go staright to her relationship with Caeser and Antony. She was only like 16 when she took throne and died in her late 30’s. if it is a younger actress my vote would be for them to cast a newbie. But if she is older than Morena Baccrin is my choce

  29. Constable Geneva says:

    Bridget Regan, Tabrett Bethell, Jessica Marais. I miss Legend of the Seeker.

  30. Elizabeth says:

    I have to agree with Rebecca from Greek. I think she would be the best casting.

  31. Lee says:

    i wouldn’t expect too much historical fact added in here
    i magine it’s gonna be more action & probably sci-fi
    soem stuff might be used when it fits but i think mainly the names of people & places might be the only accurate stuff used

  32. Renee says:

    Salma Hayek

  33. nick1372 says:

    I think Morena Baccarin would be great, but I do not want her to budge from Homeland.

    I would not watch this show unless someone I really liked was in it. And even then, maybe not. I just don’t like period dramas.

  34. mia says:

    This could be totally awesome. They should cast an unknown woman as Cleo….and she needs to not be white.

  35. Gilda says:

    If for some weird reason she left Homeland, Morena Baraccarin would be perfect. I also think Rosario Dawson is a good suggestion, whoever said that. Is Naya Rivera a too tweeny suggestion? We don’t know how much exactly she’ll be involved in Glee this year, and I personally think she’s one of the strongest actors on the show. It depends on what age they’re looking for. Erica Cera could also be good now that Eureka’s done.
    So, yah, my top 4:
    Morene Baccarin
    Rosario Dawson
    Naya Rivera
    Erica Cera

  36. Elizabeth says:

    Bianca Lawson. I think she would be perfect in the role!

  37. Keren says:

    Erica Cerra!!!

  38. Deanna says:

    Azita Ghanizada should totally get the role, she’s perfect!

  39. Mark says:

    How about Ashley Greene from Twilight and Pan Am? I think she could tackle the part.

  40. janet says:

    Frieda Pinto or aishwara ray !!!

  41. shay says:

    yeah frieda pinto she’s beautiful, young and fits for the origins

  42. Trinity says:

    Cleopatra was Greek, from a long line of Greek rulers in Egypt. The possibility of Cleopatrra being part African is speculation. Thus, the actress cast to play her should not be Latina or of African descent. Someone who looks like Melina Kanakaredes (CSI: NY) would be more accurate casting. (Maybe Jamie Murray, Sofia Milos…)

  43. lil says:

    I’m sure whoever they pick, it will be someone super white, as usual.

  44. wingriver18 says:

    Reblogged this on The Perks of Being Bespectacled and commented:
    Another high-concept TV Show that will never see the light of day especially if it’s on NBC.

  45. Jason says:

    Azita Ghanizada is a good call. I’d watch every episode of that mess.

  46. Cole says:

    Naya Rivera

  47. Daniel says:

    I don’t think NBC is the right network for a show like this, and have a feeling they’ll butcher the series. However, my first thought when I read this was Lucy Lawless. I just remember they had an episode of Xena where she had to masquerade as Cleopatra.

    • Dan says:

      She might be going to prison in a few weeks, so whilst a great actress, she might not be available/the lead NBC would want. And I agree, NBC doesn’t seem the right choice for this show Cable would have a better end product.

  48. Come on…dig into that big pot of cash you made from the Olympics and hire the ONLY actress who can bring all the fire and ice necessary…Angeline Jollien (sp?) …
    You know…Mrs Brad Pitt…and snag him an Antony!

  49. Morena Baccarin …hands down!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Dark says:

      Brazilian, (very well) employed (in Homeland) and very white. Are you people all on crack or something? That’s one of the worst choices possible.

  50. Ryu says:

    Necar Zadegan