Scarlett Johansson’s New Role Is Unlike Anything She’s Done Before

scarlett johansson
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Scarlett Johansson is the latest movie star to cross over to the small screen. The Lucy actress has officially signed on to executive produce and star in a miniseries based on Edith Wharton’s 1913 novel, The Custom of the Country.

According to Deadline, Sony Pictures TV is adapting the work of the legendary American novelist into a limited eight-episode period series. Custom of the Country will reportedly feature Johansson as Undine Spragg, one of literature’s most merciless heroines. Undine, though an irresistibly beautiful girl, is not exactly a picture of morality. She moves to New York from the Midwest in order to escape her marriage to a once-wealthy man who’s lost his fortune. Once there, her ruthless ambition helps drive her to the top of the city’s societal ranks. The story provides insightful commentary on how the aspirations that make individuals a part of high society ultimately causes their downfall.

Per Deadline, the show is being eyed for a cable run, possibly on premium cable, although it has not found a network just yet. British playwright and screenwriter Christopher Hampton (Dangerous Liaisons, Atonement), will pen the script, using a screenplay he initially wrote almost twenty years ago. His original adaptation was meant for a film project reportedly featuring Michelle Pfeiffer, who starred in another of Wharton’s stories, Age of Innocence, in 1993. Several other of Wharton’s works have been adapted to screen in recent years, including 1999’s The Reef (starring Sela Ward) and 2000’s The House of Mirth (starring Gillian Anderson).

Custom of the Country will be the first major TV role for Johansson, who has been a film actress since the young age of 10. But her transition to the small screen doesn’t come as much of a surprise. The actress had previously made it clear she’d be open to committing to a television series. “I like the idea of the television. I like the long format of it,” Johansson told Vulture as recently this past summer. “I like the idea of having the time to really imagine a character in a much more in-depth way.”

Now, it seems she’s finally getting her chance to do just that. The project marks a drastic — although not altogether unwelcome — departure from her most recent blockbuster fare, including the entertaining but silly Lucy and several comic book films in which she plays Natasha Romanoff (aka Black Widow). This newest gig will give her a chance to explore some more substantial material. Not to mention, it’s sure to draw the attention of fans of other period dramas, like Downton Abbey.

Given how long Johansson has been in the industry, her entry into television may seem overdue. But if there were ever any time for a big screen actor to switch formats, it’d be now. While movie studios continue to churn out spinoffs and sequels, it seems both critics and the general public are recognizing TV as the increasingly better source for original, award-worthy material. The shift hasn’t gone unnoticed by some of Hollywood’s top actors and directors (including David Fincher and Martin Scorcese), who — as we’ve seen time and time again in recent months — are taking full advantage of the broad new selection of notable small screen projects. In the last year alone, some of the industry’s most well-known stars (like Matthew McConaughey, Woody Harrelson, Halle Berry, Viola Davis, Vince Vaughn, and Colin Farrell, to name a few) have all either starred in or signed on to a small screen series — and clearly, the trend isn’t dying down anytime soon.

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