Chinese actress-producer Liu Xiaoqing will star in and co-produce “Empress,” a U.S. television series in development about the seventh and eighth century empress Wu Zetian, Variety has learned exclusively.
Wu Zetian was the only empress in China’s 4,000 year history and ruled during the two decades of the Zhou dynasty. Liu will join forces with “Game of Thrones” executive producer Christopher Newman; Starlight Media; and Kia Jam, CEO of K.Jam Media.
The producers are planning to begin airing the series in late 2018. They have not yet finalized a deal with a network.
Liu, a co-producer on the new series, has starred in four other productions as the Empress, including the Chinese TV series “Wu Zetian,” which was first broadcast in China in 1995. During the worldwide tour of her play about Wu Zetian, she was approached by Peter Luo of Starlight Media about developing “Empress” for TV.
“The Empress went through a lot of men, but she was loyal only to one, her husband,” Liu said. “There are two elements we didn’t show in the Chinese versions; her desire for killing and for sex. She killed all her ministers who didn’t agree with her.”
Liu, 61, has won several Hundred Flowers awards in a career dating back to the 1970s. She said that the series can have a modern resonance.
“Throughout the Empress’ story, I hope that audiences can realize that history and feminism can neither be ignored nor separated. It existed before and it will happen again,” she said.