Who would have predicted that the hottest commodity in TV this year would be a 76-year-old Canadian feminist poet? (Okay, sure, maybe we’ve thought about it. But we wouldn’t have predicted it.) Yet, here we are, receiving press releases announcing that Margaret Atwood’s 1996 novel Alias Grace is being developed as a six-part TV miniseries by Sarah Polley (Take This Waltz, Away From Her) and Mary Harron (American Psycho, I Shot Andy Warhol) for Netflix.
This news comes less than two months after the announcement of a Hulu series of another of Atwood’s novels, The Handmaid’s Tale, starring Elisabeth Moss, suggesting either a super elite Margaret Atwood book club in Hollywood somewhere or a feminist-literature arms race between the two streaming services. (We’ll know when the competing Alice Walker projects start getting announced a few months from now.)
Polley wrote the teleplay and will produce from Atwood’s novel, while Harron will direct. Polley’s been an Atwood fan for a long time—“I first read Alias Grace when I was 17 years old and throughout the last 20 years I have read it over and over, trying to get to the bottom of it,” she says—while Harron notes Polley’s adaptation of the story “combines the richness of period drama with the tension and mystery of a modern day Serial.” For those less familiar with the material, Alias Grace tells the story of Grace Marks, a servant in 19th-century Canada who is convicted of the murder of her employer and a housekeeper. While she’s in jail, she meets a young doctor who researches her case and becomes convinced of her innocence, falling in love with her in the process.
Production on Alias Grace begins this August in Ontario; the miniseries will be broadcast on the CBC in Canada, and Netflix everywhere else.