Knightley dropped out in October "due to family reasons."
Claire Danes: Keira Knightley

Claire Danes has set her first role after eight seasons of Homeland. The actress steps in to take over the lead role of Apple TV+'s adaptation of The Essex Serpent, EW has learned.

Keira Knightley, who had previously been cast in the starring role of Cora, bowed out of the project "due to family reasons," her rep told PEOPLE in a statement in October. "As the COVID cases increase in the U.K. and additional lockdown and restriction rules are potentially being imposed, with so many unknowns, there wasn't a comfortable scenario for Keira that could be put in place for an extended period of child care required for the 4.5-month production."

Danes will now play Cora, a newly widowed woman who finds herself released from an abusive marriage. She 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.

Danes portrayed C.I.A. officer Carrie Mathison on Homeland from the show's premiere on Showtime in 2011 all the way to the series finale in 2020. She won two Golden Globes and two Emmys for the role, giving her a career total of four Golden Globes and four Emmys.

Clio Barnard (The Selfish Giant) directs The Essex Serpent, and Anna Symon (Deep Water) serves as lead writer. Sarah Perry penned the original novel, which was published in 2016.

Barnard and Symon will also executive produce the series with Jamie Laurenson, Hakan Kousetta, Patrick Walters, Iain Canning, and Emile Sherman. Andrea Cornwell will serve as producer.

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