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Those About To Die Cast, Director, Writer, Plot And More Details

Since NBC's subscription platform Peacock launched in July 2020, it's been cranking out top quality TV shows and movies in nearly every genre. On the documentary side, Peacock has titles like "John Wayne Gacy: Devil in Disguise" and "The Murder of Gabby Petito: Truth, Lies and Social Media." On the drama side, it's got hits like "Dr. Death," "Bel-Air," and "Vampire Academy." On the comedy side, Peacock boasts titles like "Girls5eva," "Paul T. Goldman," and "Killing It." All of this means Peacock can rival Netflix, Hulu, HBO, and Amazon when it comes to original content.

However, one genre that Peacock hasn't yet attempted is a lavish historical drama in the vein of "The Borgias" or "Wolf Hall." That's about to change with the upcoming TV series "Those About to Die," which will take viewers to the violent, gritty world of Roman gladiators — but that's just the start. With a reported $140 million budget, it should rival other big movies and TV shows set in the Eternal City, like "Gladiator" and "Rome." Here's everything we know about "Those About to Die" so far.

When will Those About to Die be released?

At this point, "Those About to Die" doesn't yet have an official release date, but the good news is that the project is progressing along. As reported by Deadline, production began at Rome's Cinecitta studios in March 2023.

Even if there's no release date, we can make an educated guess to narrow down the timeframe based on recent similar production schedules. "Those About to Die" is being produced by AGC Television, a production and distribution company that does both movies and TV shows. AGC's most recent TV series based on a book was "War of the Worlds," a collaboration between Fox and the BBC. Per The Verge, production on "War of the Worlds" began in the spring of 2018, and the show premiered on October 28, 2019. That's a turnaround time of about 18 months. If "Those About to Die" follows a similar timetable, expect it to drop sometime in late 2024.

Whenever it does debut, "Those About to Die" will consist of 10 episodes and stream exclusively on Peacock in the U.S. and on Amazon's Prime Video throughout most of Western Europe.

What is the plot of Those About to Die?

"Those About to Die" is an adaptation of Daniel P. Mannix's 1958 nonfiction book "Those About to Die: or The Way of the Gladiator." That book was an in-depth exploration of all Roman blood sports, including gladiator games, chariot races, beast hunts, and public executions.

According to Deadline, the TV adaptation will be a sprawling ensemble drama with a diverse cast of characters from many different walks of Roman life. The series will explore multiple aspects of Roman society, from the gladiators themselves to the corrupt politicians who fund them to the criminal economy that supplies the combatants. "'Those About To Die' takes on Ancient Rome in a completely new way," NBCUniversal Television and Streaming President Lisa Katz, told Deadline. "While the series will be epic in scope and have the spectacle of gladiators and chariot racing, it also has unexpected characters amidst palace intrigue and a dark criminal underworld."

Otherwise, more specific plot details and character descriptions will be forthcoming. We do know the series will be set during the reign of Emperor Vespasian — more on that below.

Who is starring in Those About to Die?

The first actor to sign on for "Those About to Die" is a big one: two-time Academy Award-winner Anthony Hopkins. He's set to play Roman Emperor Vespasian, who ruled from 69 to 79 C.E. Vespasian was born in C.E. 9 to humble beginnings, but he rose from the rank of tax collector to a powerful military commander and consul of Rome. Before becoming emperor, he conquered territory in modern Great Britain and put down the Jewish revolt in Judea. Vespasian has the crown by the time "Those About to Die" takes place, but his grip on it is shaky, as many of Rome's patricians would love to usurp the throne for themselves.

In March 2023, Deadline reported that numerous significant roles in the series had been cast. Iwan Rheon — Ramsay Bolton of "Game of Thrones" fame — will play a crime lord named Tenax, and Liraz Charhi of "Tehran" will co-star as Berenice, the queen of Judea, who's held against her will in Rome. Jóhannes Haukur Jóhannesson of "Vikings: Valhalla" will portray a gladiator named Viggo, and Kyshan Wilson of "Viola" is set to co-star as would-be gladiator Aura. 

Rupert Penry-Jones of "Spooks" will come aboard as Marsus, a former general who yearns to rule Rome. Rounding out the cast, we'll see the likes of Eneko Sagardoy ("Giant"), Goncalo Almeida ("Amor Amor"), Pepe Barroso ("Gran Turismo"), Tom Hughes ("The English"), and Sara Martins ("Death in Paradise"). Also keep an eye out for Gabriella Pession ("Crossing Lines"), Jojo Macari ("Sex Education"), Dimitri Leonidas ("Rosewater"), and Moe Hashim ("Ted Lasso").

Who is writing and directing Those About to Die?

"Those About to Die" is being directed by Roland Emmerich, who will also be executive producing. Emmerich is a prolific director whose first directing credit dates back to 1979. He's mostly known for big-budget action/disaster thrillers like "Independence Day" and "The Day After Tomorrow," but he's also directed period pieces like "Midway," "Stonewall," and even "10,000 BC" — the Ice Age counts as a period, right?

Robert Rodat will be writing and executive producing the series. He's most well-known for writing the screenplay for "Saving Private Ryan." He's also written "The Patriot" and provided the story for "Thor: The Dark World."