Keira Knightley backs out of leading role in Apple TV+ series ‘The Essex Serpent’

On a semi-regular basis, we report about all of the big names, both in front and behind the camera, joining new projects for Apple TV+. It isn’t often we hear the opposite.

We heard about the upcoming series The Essex Serpent for Apple TV+ back in August of this year. At the time, it was reported that Keira Knightley (Atonement, Pride & Prejudice) would be headlining the project as the character Cora. However, due to ongoing coronavirus pandemic-related issues, Knightley has backed out of the project (via Deadline), according to Knightley’s representative speaking to the Daily Mail.

According to the rep, Knightley has opted out of the project just a few weeks before production was set to begin because of family reasons. Specifically, the rep told the publication that, due to a “second wave” of COVID-19 cases in the UK, “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”.

As a result, The Essex Serpent production is on a bit of a hiatus. The series will need to recast the role of Cora, too. Shooting is now supposed to restart sometime in 2021.

Here’s how The Essex Serpent is described:

The Essex Serpent follows newly widowed Cora, played by Knightley, who, having being released from an abusive marriage, relocates from Victorian London to the small village of Aldwinter in Essex, intrigued by a local superstition that a mythical creature known as the Essex Serpent has returned to the area.

The upcoming series is still heading to Apple TV+ whenever it does make its debut.

The project is based on the novel of the same name written by Sarah Perry.