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Dame Helen Mirren will be ruling TV screens in the title role of the forthcoming four-part series Catherine the Great. And now she has an on-screen lover in the form of Jason Clarke (Zero Dark Thirty).

Clarke also starred opposite Mirren in the 2018 film Winchester, and the two will team up again. He’ll take on the role of Grigory Potemkin in the limited series set for HBO in the U.S. and Sky in the U.K.

Potemkin was a commander in the Russian military, which is how he crossed paths with the Empress. She promoted him to second lieutenant, based on his service in the revolt against her husband Emperor Peter III, which resulted in Catherine taking the throne.

She later promoted him again — this time to “kammerjunker,” a term meaning a guard of the bedchamber. Oo-er. Their love affair wasn’t instantaneous, but developed gradually due to their close proximity. And, Potemkin’s unapologetic flirtatiousness.

A passionate relationship developed, and Potemkin was added into Catherine’s rotation of men. While their romantic entanglement eventually came to an end, they stayed life-long friends.

An official statement from HBO revealed some of what we can expect to play out in the series: “The four-part historical drama will follow the end of Catherine’s reign and her affair with Russian military leader Grigory Potemkin that helped shape the future of Russian politics.”

The HBO statement includes a comment from Mirren, who praised Catherine, saying, “She rewrote the rules of governance by a woman, and succeeded to the extent of having the word ‘Great’ attached to her name.”

Catherine the Great, which will begin filming later this year, is the latest joint venture from HBO and Sky. The networks also collaborated on The Young Pope, starring Jude Law.

And it’s not the first time Mirren has taken on a royal role. She won the Best Actress Academy Award for her portrayal of Queen Elizabeth in 2006’s The Queen and later took on the role of Queen Elizabeth II in The Audience. Clearly, this Dame can play a British royal naturally, and we look forward to seeing how she does in the part of a foreign sovereign.

Is this frisky period drama going on your watch list?  

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By Brigid Brown