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Special Ops: Lioness Release Date, Cast, Trailer, Plot And More Details

When you think of a Taylor Sheridan show, you probably picture rugged cowboys chasing cattle, getting into gunfights, and swearing up a storm. Even his projects that aren't traditional Westerns still have a strong Western vibe, especially when they're set in locations like Oklahoma ("Tulsa King"), Mexico ("Sicario"), and Montana ("Those Who Wish Me Dead"). However, Sheridan is shaking things up with his next series, leaving behind the North American wilderness for the deserts of the Middle East.

Titled "Special Ops: Lioness," Sheridan's new series will plunge viewers into the war on terror, focusing on the efforts of two women hoping to stop an upcoming attack. In true Taylor Sheridan fashion, the series will feature plenty of high-stakes drama and a ton of A-list talent. But what else do you need to know about his new series? Well, if you can't get enough of the gritty action that Sheridan has to offer, read on for everything you need to know about "Special Ops: Lioness."

When will Special Ops: Lioness be released?

Taylor Sheridan fans have been waiting a while for new content. All sorts of drama has put "Yellowstone" Season 5 on pause, Jeremy Renner's accident has majorly delayed future seasons of "Mayor of Kingstown," and we're still waiting to see Sylvester Stallone back in action with "Tulsa King" Season 2. Fortunately, if you're hoping to fill that Sheridan-sized hole in your heart, you won't have to wait very long. The first two episodes "Special Ops: Lioness" will hit streaming service Paramount+ on July 23.

What is the plot of Special Ops: Lioness?

"Special Ops: Lioness" draws inspiration from a real-life military initiative. After the U.S. invasion of Iraq, the Marines developed the Lioness Program, where female Marines were brought in to search women and children suspected of carrying weaponry. In Taylor Sheridan's series, it appears the lionesses have been tasked with an even more dangerous mission — one involving subterfuge and a possible catastrophic attack on par with 9/11.

"Lioness" will follow a character named Joe, a Lioness station chief in charge of sending female agents undercover with suspected terrorists. According to the show's official synopsis, we'll follow Joe "while she attempts to balance her personal and professional life as the tip of the CIA's spear in the war on terror." As the series unfolds, we'll watch as "the Lioness Program ... enlists an aggressive Marine Raider named Cruz to operate undercover alongside Joe among the power brokers of state terrorism in the CIA's efforts to thwart the next 9/11."

Who is starring in Special Ops: Lioness?

"Special Ops: Lioness" is absolutely stacked with big-name stars. Playing the lead role of Joe, we've got Zoe Saldaña, who holds the distinction of starring in three of the five highest-grossing movies of all time ("Avatar," "Avengers: Endgame," and "Avatar: The Way of Water"). Here, she'll be joined by Laysla De Oliveira as Cruz, the agent sent undercover and who'll no doubt be butting heads with Saldaña's station agent. De Oliveira is best known for playing in projects like "In the Tall Grass," "The Gifted," and "Locke & Key."

In addition to Saldaña and De Oliveira, the legendary Nicole Kidman will portray Kaitlyn Meade, who's calling all the shots for the Lioness Program. Kidman won an Oscar for her turn in "The Hours," and she's also starred in beloved titles such as "Eyes Wide Shut," "Paddington," and "Aquaman." Her character of Kaitlyn Meade will be running the show with a character named Donald Westfield, who's played by Michael Kelly. While you might not recognize that name, you definitely know the face, as he's worked in projects like "House of Cards," "Jack Ryan," and "Dawn of the Dead."

Lending some serious gravitas to the proceedings, Morgan Freeman will portray the secretary of state, delivering lines with his iconic rich voice made famous by movies like "The Shawshank Redemption," "The Dark Knight," and "Million Dollar Baby." Rounding out the cast, we'll see incredibly talented actors such as Dave Annable ("Yellowstone"), Jill Wagner ("Teen Wolf"), LaMonica Garrett ("1883"), James Jordan ("Mayor of Kingstown"), Austin Hébert ("Jack Reacher: Never Go Back"), Jonah Wharton ("NCIS"), Stephanie Nur ("1883"), and Hannah Love Lanier ("Road House").

Who is showrunning Special Ops: Lioness?

Originally, Thomas Brady of "NOS42" and "Hell on Wheels" was going to serve as showrunner on "Special Ops: Lioness." However, as Variety put it in their 2022 report, "Once the writer's room wrapped, sources say creative differences led to the producers and Brady agreeing to part ways."

It should come as no surprise that once Brady left, creator Taylor Sheridan stepped in to fill the void. With so many shows in development — including the second half of "Yellowstone" Season 5 and the upcoming "Lawman: Bass Reeves" and "Land Man" — you'd think Sheridan would want some help wrangling his massive TV empire. However, as we recently learned, the man isn't really big on creative compromises or sharing duties with others.

Speaking with The Hollywood Reporter in June 2023, Sheridan explained, "My stories have a very simple plot that is driven by the characters as opposed to characters driven by a plot — the antithesis of the way television is normally modeled. I'm really interested in the dirty of the relationships in literally every scene. But when you hire a room that may not be motivated by those same qualities — and a writer always wants to take ownership of something they're writing — and I give this directive and they're not feeling it, then they're going to come up with their own qualities. So for me, writers rooms, they haven't worked."

Sheridan will also be producing, working alongside series stars Zoe Saldaña and Nicole Kidman, as well as John Hillcoat, director of films like "Lawless" and "The Proposition." Additional producers include David C. Glasser, Zoe Saldaña, Nicole Kidman, Ron Burkle, Bob Yari, David Hutkin, Jill Wagner, Geyer Kosinski, and Michael Malone.

Is there a trailer for Special Ops: Lioness?

The trailer for "Special Ops: Lioness" promises plenty of white-knuckle action as a woman goes undercover in enemy territory, where one wrong move could get her violently murdered. In the opening moments of the trailer, we watch Laysla De Oliveira's Cruz escape a miserable life by joining the Marines. She obviously excels at her duties, and soon enough, she winds up in the hands of Zoe Saldaña's Joe, a high-ranking member of the Lioness program. "You have no family," Joe tells Cruz. "You have no friends. You were abused until you gave yourself to me. Now you have a purpose, and it is noble." 

Cruz is told to neutralize her target if she gets close enough, and this sparks all sorts of controversy in the halls of government, with many worried about the political fallout of this mission. But Nicole Kidman's Kaitlyn Meade doesn't seem bothered by any of this. "You up for playing outside the lines?" she asks. It seems Cruz is willing to put her life on the line, but as the trailer makes clear, she's very much on her own. Despite Joe's watchful eye, if the mission goes bad, she'll have to get herself out of danger, and as she's surrounded by enemies, there's no guarantee that Cruz will live to see tomorrow.

Where to watch Taylor Sheridan's other shows

"Special Ops: Lioness" will hit Paramount+ on July 23, and that's where you can find basically every single Taylor Sheridan TV series. "Tulsa King," "The Mayor of Kingstown," "1883," and "1923" all call Paramount+ their home. Strangely enough, there's one exception to this rule, and that's "Yellowstone," as all five seasons currently live on Peacock.