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'Jane the Virgin' mastermind developing high-concept Ancient Egypt 'Cleopatra' dramedy at Peacock

The hour-long drama-comedy will track the funny misadventures of the last female Pharaoh.

By Benjamin Bullard

Are we in denial? Nah — don’t bank on it. An hour-long dramatic comedy about Egypt’s most famous female Pharaoh is in the works at Peacock, with the Nile and its ancient Egyptian environs serving as the historical backdrop for a show set to track the adventures — and perhaps funny misadventures — of the kingdom’s last queen.

Via Deadline, Peacock is plucking up the series treatment on Cleo, an hour-long drama-comedy about the life and labors of iconic 1st-Century B.C. ruler Cleopatra. The series comes from Man with a Plan writer Jessica Runck, with Jennie Snyder, the creative mind behind The CW’s Jane the Virgin, set to serve both as series developer and showrunner.

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Not to be confused with DreamWorks’ Cleopatra in Space animated kids’ series (which, incidentally, is currently streaming at Peacock), Cleo reportedly will play in live-action grown-up territory, suffused with some of the same feminist themes that found earlier oasis in Jane the Virgin.

Deadline’s report describes the show’s titular hero as a gal stranded in a ruling gig whose stuffy old-world trappings put a serious cramp in her style. Cleopatra, the show’s synopsis reads, is “an overqualified young woman who is forced to hide her intelligence behind make-up, clothes and men to earn the respect she needs to hang on to her job: being queen of Egypt.”

As the last female Pharaoh (and, in fact, the very last Egyptian Pharaoh before the Ptolemaic dynasty ceded power to the Roman Empire), Cleopatra has long enjoyed a romanticized reign over writers’ imaginations — from Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra all the way through to director Joseph L. Mankiewicz’ 1963 Cleopatra film epic starring Elizabeth Taylor. Peacock’s new treatment is a co-production of Aaron Kaplan’s Kapital Entertainment, TrillTV, and CBS Studios alongside Urman and Runck.

There’s no early word on casting or production start date for Cleo, but the wait thankfully won’t be nearly as long as the 3,000-year era that ended with Cleopatra's rule. In the meantime, there’s no desert of fun Egypt-themed content at Peacock: Both Cleopatra in Space and DreamWorks’ 1998 animated epic The Prince of Egypt are streaming ‘round the clock at the bird app.

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