Tom Hiddleston is the latest actor to join the cast of The Essex Serpent, a new Apple TV+ series that also stars Claire Danes. Based on the novel by Sarah Perry, the series tells the story of a widow who moves to a small village and learns of a local legend involving a mythical sea serpent. Danes is playing the widow while Hiddleston will play the “trusted leader” of the small rural community.

The news comes directly from Apple, along with a first-look image you can see above. The Essex Serpent is directed by Clio Barnard, with a script by Anna Symon. The show follows “newly widowed Cora (played by Claire Danes) 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.” Hiddleston’s character is named Will Ransome, and described as “the trusted leader of a small rural community.” And as you can probably tell from the white collar he’s rocking in that image, he’s a member of the clergy – a vicar, to be precise.

The book synopsis offers some more insight into the story:

London, 1893. When Cora Seaborne’s brilliant, domineering husband dies, she steps into her new life as a widow with as much relief as sadness: her marriage was an unhappy one, and she never suited the role of society wife. Seeking refuge in fresh air and open space, she leaves the metropolis for coastal Essex, accompanied by her inquisitive and obsessive eleven-year-old son, Francis, and the boy’s nanny, Martha, her fiercely protective friend.

Once there, they hear rumors that after nearly three hundred years, the mythical Essex Serpent, a fearsome creature that once roamed the marshes, has returned. When a young man is mysteriously killed on New Year’s Eve, the community’s dread transforms to terror. Cora, a keen amateur naturalist with no patience for religion or superstition, is immediately enthralled, certain that what locals think is a magical sea beast may be a previously undiscovered species.

Eager to investigate, she is introduced to parish vicar William Ransome, who is equally suspicious of the rumors but for different reasons: a man of faith, he is convinced the alarming reports are caused by moral panic, a flight from the correct and righteous path. As Cora and William attempt to discover the truth about the Essex Serpent’s existence, these seeming opposites find themselves inexorably drawn together in an intense relationship that will change both of them in ways entirely unexpected. And as they search for answers, Cora’s London past follows her to the coast, with striking consequences.

At one point, Keira Knightley was going to play the lead role but had to drop out, citing “difficulties obtaining childcare due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.” That’s when Danes stepped in. There’s no premiere date set for the show just yet, but we’ll keep you posted.

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