The Mad Men creator has penned and directed an anthology series about individuals who believe they’re the descendants of Russia’s Royal Family.
One of the most prolific names in history, in both the real world and the world of fiction, is surely Romanov. With a deep and rich dynasty set in Russia spanning the 1600s to the early 1900s, tales of the monarchy’s exploits and early demise have inspired countless novels, TV shows, and films. The mystery surrounding the family and their execution in 1918 still continues to capture people’s imaginations in a horrifically fascinating way.
The story of the Romanovs is familiar to many, and perhaps as a result of this, their tragedies keep being revisited for audiences. Netflix ordered a docu-series in November of 2017 which is to focus on the downfall of the Romanovs, and prior to that, Amazon Prime Video announced in October 2016 that they would produce an eight-part series also related to the monarchy. Matthew Weiner, Mad Men’s creator, was attached to write, produce, and direct the show, instantly causing high-anticipation for the project, and for good reason based on his previous exploits.
The result has been The Romanoffs (the spelling changed from the widely-used Romanov to honor the actual literal translation), an anthology series with a strikingly new perspective to the family’s history. There are eight episodes of the show of which are all separate to one another. Taking on completely new settings and characters each time, the vital connection throughout the anthology is that the protagonist of each part believes they are a descendant of the famed Romanov family.
With a modern-day focus, the show spans locations such as the US, Eastern Europe, and of course, Russia. Its ensemble cast has similarly been drawn from a number of different continents and is sure to foster performances as dramatic as the show’s subject matter. Standouts amongst the cast-list include Isabelle Huppert, Aaron Eckhart, Kathryn Hahn, and Diane Lane. Weiner’s rapport with former Mad Men alumni is clearly strong, as Christina Hendricks, Cara Buono, Jay R. Ferguson, and John Slattery have roles in the anthology. There’s also an abundance of smaller names within the supporting cast, but certainly, ones which audiences will recognize such as Ron Livingston and Clea DuVall. The first trailer to include the cast in their roles was released August 14th, displaying the range of characters and circumstances which are to be exhibited throughout the series.
Weiner’s direction in adapting the Romanov’s history is one that decisively turns to the idea of claiming an identity as obviously as a well-loved tale such as Anastasia has done, yet aspects of the show bring a much more contemporary, realist sense to an often worn-out royal fantasy. There are certainly parts which appear as absurd as tales of the Romanovs have been at times, but there’s also humored, genuine reactions which any sane person would likely have when someone claims to be a member of the Romanov family (most brilliantly displayed in Amanda Peet’s “I’m so tired of this Romanov sh*t” line).
Being related to a Romanov in literature or art may have become a cliche-seeming dream, but Weiner’s anthology appears to be far from that. Planted firmly in reality with comedy threaded throughout, it’s a refreshing take on what exists of the Romanovs in the modern day.
And as if that wasn’t enough to entice audiences, the crew behind the show is one which Weiner has packed with Mad Men creatives. The success of the period drama was no fluke, and names such as director of photography Chris Manley and production designers Chris Brown and Henry Dunwhoom worked on the show have rejoined Weiner once more with a number of others. With a commendable ensemble cast at the forefront and a well-experienced crew to guide them under Weiner’s jurisdiction, the new direction taken for a Romanov tale is certainly one not to be dismissed.
The first two installments of The Romanoffs will air on October 12th and will be followed with a new episode weekly on Amazon Prime Video.