The Essex Serpent: Why Keira Knightley has dropped out of the Apple TV+ show

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Keira Knightley’s representative has confirmed that the actor will no longer be starring in Apple TV+ drama The Essex Serpent.

Just a few months ago, we announced that Keira Knightley would be leading the TV adaptation of Sarah Perry’s best-selling novel, The Essex Serpent.

As in, yes, the award-winning tale about newly-widowed Cora who, released from her abusive marriage, relocates to the small village of Aldwinter, becomes intrigued by a mythical creature known as the Essex Serpent, and finds herself inexorably drawn to William Ransome, Aldwinter’s vicar.

Knightley, of course, was lined up to play Cora in the adaptation, being the undisputed queen of the period drama

And she was also due to serve as executive producer in the exciting Apple TV+ project, too.

However, a representative for the actor has now confirmed that she “had to unfortunately pull out” of the role due to “family reasons” related to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Essex Serpent:
The Essex Serpent: Keira Knightley was lined up to executive produce and star in the TV series.

As per Digital Spy’s report, the spokesperson said that because Covid-19 cases were increasing in the UK – and additional lockdown rules are potentially being imposed – “there wasn’t a comfortable scenario for Keira that could be put in place for an extended period of childcare required for the four-and-a-half-month production.” 

Filming on The Essex Serpent, which was due to begin next month, has been paused while they search for a new Cora.

Of course, Knightley recently starred in feminist dramedy, Misbehaviour, as feminist protester (and single mother) Sally Alexander.

Based on real-life events, the film recounts how the newly-formed Women’s Liberation Movement invaded the stage at the Miss World competition, successfully disrupting the most-watched live television broadcast at the time.

While the film was set in 1970, though, Knightley says that the sexist expectations around childcare endure even now.

“Why do we not expect a working man to be looking after their children as much as their partner is?” she said while promoting the movie, as per Hello Giggles

“Why do we assume that they don’t feel guilty about not spending enough time with their children as well?”

Hammering her important message home, Knightley added: “We really need to start asking men about what their role within the childcare situation is, how much of that they take on, and expect them to take on that responsibility.

“We expect women to take on that responsibility, and yet for some reason, we give men a free pass.”

Keira Knightley
Keira Knightley is expected to make her TV return in Hulu’s upcoming period drama The Other Typist.

While Knightley has unfortunately had to pull out of The Essex Serpent, it’s expected that she will still make her TV return in Hulu’s upcoming period drama The Other Typist.

Set in New York City at the height of the Prohibition era, the psycho-sexual suspense thriller is based upon Suzanne Rindell’s novel of the same name.

Dealing with themes of oppression and misplaced desire, The Other Typist follows Rose Baker, a prudish police typist who feels stuck in the fading light of yesteryear as all around her women bob their hair, smoke, and go to speakeasies. So, when glamorous Odalie (Knightley) joins the typing pool, it isn’t long before Rose falls under her new co-worker’s spell.

“As the two women navigate between the sparkling underworld of speakeasies by night and their work at the station by day, Rose is drawn fully into Odalie’s high-stakes world,” promises the synopsis.

“And soon her fascination with Odalie turns into an obsession from which she may never recover.”

Consider us well and truly sold.

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Kayleigh Dray

Kayleigh Dray is Stylist’s digital editor-at-large. Her specialist topics include comic books, films, TV and feminism. On a weekend, you can usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea and playing boardgames with her friends.

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