[04/27/05 - 12:00 AM]
Empire, a Sweeping, New Summer Drama Series, Will Premiere June 28 on the ABC Television Network

[via press release from ABC]


A Stellar International Cast Features Jonathan Cake and Santiago Cabrera

Trudie Styler Also Appears in the Lavish Six-Hour Series

"Empire," an epic six-hour summer drama series from the executive producers of the Academy Award-winning "Chicago," will have a special two-hour premiere, TUESDAY, JUNE 28 (9:00-11:00 p.m., ET), on the ABC Television Network. The sweeping limited drama series, filmed entirely in Rome and South Central Italy, focuses on Julius Caesar's nephew, Octavius, who is forced into exile after Caesar's murder, and a fictional disgraced gladiator, Tyrannus, who has sworn to protect him.

The other four one-hour episodes are slated to air on successive Tuesday nights, all from 10:00-11:00 p.m., ET.

"Empire" features a stellar international cast led by Jonathan Cake ("First Knight," Hallmark's "Noah's Ark") and Santiago Cabrera ("Haven"), with guest and recurring stars including Dennis Haysbert ("24") and Trudie Styler ("Friends," "Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister"). It is one of the most lavish and technically complex series ever to air on ABC in primetime. "Empire" is being executive-produced by award-winning producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron ("Life with Judy Garland: Me and My Shadows," "The Beach Boys: An American Family," "Brian's Song," ABC's "Annie," "Rodgers & Hammerstein's Cinderella" and the Oscar-winning "Chicago"), multiple award-winner Tony Jonas ("Queer as Folk," "Leap Years"), Chip Johannessen ("24," "The X-Files,") and Thomas Wheeler ("The Prometheus Project," "The Mission"), who is also the series creator.

The time is 44 B.C. and the Conqueror Julius Caesar (Colm Feore, "Chicago," "And Starring Pancho Villa as Himself"; currently seen as Cassius in "Julius Caesar" on Broadway) returns from triumphs in Spain to a neglected Republic and a corrupt Senate drunk with power. Though he's hailed as a hero by the masses, the Senate is wary of Caesar's plans that might place him in a position of ultimate power. Brutus (James Frain, "24," USA Network's "Spartacus," "Arabian Nights") and Cassius (Michael Maloney, Kenneth Branagh's "Hamlet," "Painted Lady") try to enlist the help of Marc Antony (Vincent Regan, "Troy," "Joan of Arc") in overthrowing Caesar, but Antony is loyal to Caesar and refuses. A terrible conflict looms and the fate of an empire will fall to one man - a gladiator named Tyrannus.

Tyrannus (Jonathan Cake), Rome's finest warrior, is undefeated in the arena and considered a champion among men. A slave since he was a young man, Tyrannus impresses Caesar with his fighting prowess and his popularity, and with his dedication to Rome. Caesar offers him freedom in return for his service and friendship. However the Senate puts up a vicious fight for power and manages to separate Caesar from Tyrannus' protective grasp by sending the gladiator to one last match to the death. Cassius and Brutus have Tyrannus' son, Piso, kidnapped. Tyrannus rushes to his son's rescue and kills the kidnappers, only to realize that the abduction is a diversion. He hurries to Caesar's side, but it is too late. His absence results in Brutus successfully leading a group of conspirators in assassinating the great conqueror. As he is drawing his last breath, Caesar swears Tyrannus to an oath to protect his successor, Octavius (Santiago Cabrera), his 18-year-old nephew.

Tyrannus and Octavius are forced into exile to protect the young man from those who want to sever Caesar's bloodline once and for all. They are joined by Agrippa (Chris Egan, upcoming feature film "Alpha Male," Australian series "Home & Away"), a young soldier, and by Camane (Emily Blunt, upcoming feature film "My Summer of Love," "Warrior Queen"), a Vestal Virgin from the powerful religious Order whose members are being hunted down for trying to save Octavius. Together they will help Octavius fulfill his destiny. He leaves Rome an impetuous boy, but will Octavius return as Emperor?

Production scoured south-central Italy for locations to represent Caesar's Roman Republic, including the ancient roads of the Apian Way, Aqua Appia, the 2,000-year-old aqueduct responsible for the first running water, Romulus' Fourth Century tomb, the pine trees and marketplaces of Ostia Antica and the beachside caves of Anzio, a famous disembarkation point during World War II. The production recreated a piazza/arena for the gladiator fights, the Forum, including the Senate, piazza and various roads, and the interior of Marc Antony's villa, which boasts 72,000 fake Roman bricks, 11,000 roofing tiles and 16,000 square feet of mosaic floor covering - all on the 270-acre back lot at Cinecitta Studios, formerly Roma Studios and, prior to that, the once famous Dino DeLaurentis Studios.

Over 6,000 yards of fabric were gathered from India, Germany and Italy and painstakingly colored with 320 pounds of dye from fresh herb extracts, replicating the process from ancient Roman times. The small army of wardrobe and props personnel also provided 150 sets of handmade women's jewelry, 700 pair of boots and sandals from Pompeii and Tunisia and breast plates originally used in the productions of "Cleopatra" and "Ben Hur."

Additionally, award-winning sword masters, husband-and-wife team Dan Speaker and Jan Bryant ("Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World," "Hidalgo," "Hook") took on the challenge of duplicating the brutish style of the Roman gladiators of over 2,000 years ago, working one-on-one with the stars of "Empire," especially Jonathan Cake, who portrays Tyrannus.

"Empire" stars Jonathan Cake as Tyrannus, Santiago Cabrera as Octavius, Emily Blunt as Camane, Chris Egan as Agrippa and Vincent Regan as Marc Antony.

Recurring or guest stars include Dennis Haysbert as Magonius, Trudie Styler as Servilia, James Frain as Brutus, Colm Feore as Julius Caesar, Michael Byrne as Cicero, Michael Maloney as Cassius, Fiona Shaw as Fulvia, Orla Brady as Atia, Graham McTavish as General Rapax and N'Deaye Ba as Nila.

Empire" is being directed by John Gray ("Brian's Song," "Helter Skelter," "Martin and Lewis"), Kim Manners ("X-Files") and Greg Yaitanes ("Line of Fire," "Cold Case," "CSI Miami"). Craig Zadan, Neil Meron, Tony Jonas, Chip Johannessen and series creator Tom Wheeler are the executive producers. The series is produced by Taranus LTD., in association with Storyline Entertainment, and is distributed by Touchstone Television.

  [april 2005]  

· 24 (FOX)

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