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Lithuania has become a stage set for Sky and HBO’s original British drama Catherine the Great. Set against the lavish backdrop of the politically ruthless 18th century Russian court, this four-part epic starring Helen Mirren will chart the latter years of Catherine’s 34-year reign. The series is also being shot in Latvia and Russia, a press release from HBO states.
Helen Mirren
Helen Mirren
© Reuters / Scanpix

"We welcome the opportunity to collaborate with HBO and Sky in creating a truly historic setting reminiscent of Catherine the Great's reign. It is also a very great pleasure to welcome Dame Mirren back to Vilnius where she filmed Elizabeth I in 2005", said Gary Tuck, President of Baltic Film Services who is the co-producer on this international production.

Starring alongside the Oscar® winner in the glittering and power-hungry court are Jason Clarke (Zero Dark Thirty) as Catherine's favoured statesman, military commander and lover Potemkin, BAFTA winner Gina McKee (Bodyguard), as Catherine's lifelong friend and confidante Countess Bruce, and Rory Kinnear (The Imitation Game) as Minister Panin, a skilful politician, advisor and governor to Catherine's son and heir Paul (Joseph Quinn).

Richard Roxburgh (Moulin Rouge) also joins as Grigory Orlov, one of Catherine's former lovers who, with his brother Alexei Orlov (played by Kevin R McNally, Unforgotten), orchestrated the coup that brought Catherine into power.

This first-look image shows Helen Mirren as Empress Catherine in her private quarters modelled on the original Russian palaces and surrounded by hand-copied paintings from the Hermitage:

The wider cast includes Clive Russell (Game of Thrones) as The Fool, Sam Palladio (Nashville) as Catherine's young lover Alexander Vasilichikov, Lucas Englander (Genius) as Lieutenant Mirovich, Antonia Clarke (Les Misérables) as Princess Sophie, Paul Ritter (Friday Night Dinner) as General Suvorov, Paul Kaye as Pugachev, Thomas Doherty as Peter Zavadovsky, Raphael Acloque as Platon Zubov, James Northcote as Alexander Bezborodko and Andrew Rothney as Alexander Dmitriev-Mamonov.

Written by Nigel Williams (Elizabeth I) and directed by BAFTA and Emmy® Award-winning Philip Martin (The Crown), Catherine the Great is produced by Origin Pictures and New Pictures. It is the third commission from Sky and HBO's high-end global drama partnership.

The series will air on Sky Atlantic and TV streaming service NOW TV in the UK and Ireland next year, and on Sky Atlantic in Italy, Germany, Austria and Spain. Sky Vision will handle international sales and distribution. Baltic Film Services with its head offices in Vilnius, Lithuania is the co-producer.

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