Scarlett Johansson heads to TV in Edith Wharton miniseries for Sony

Scarlett Johansson will play the role of Undine Spragg, an ambitious beauty from Edith Wharton's novel.
(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)

In her first major television role, Scarlett Johansson will star in an adaptation of the Edith Wharton novel “The Custom of the Country” for Sony Pictures Television.

As first reported by Deadline and confirmed to the Los Angeles Times, the eight-episode series will be written by Christopher Hampton, a screenwriter and playwright with a knack for period adpatations, including “Atonement,” “Dangerous Liaisons,” “The Secret Agent” and “A Dangerous Method.”

An earlier version of this post misspelled “Downton Abbey” creator Julian Fellowes’ last name as Fellows.

Johansson will play Undine Spragg, a young woman from a nouveau riche Midwestern family that relocates to New York City, where complicated romantic entanglements ensue for the socially ambitious beauty.


Wharton’s tales of Gilded Age Gotham have been translated to the screen several times, most notably in Martin Scorsese’s 1993 film “The Age of Innocence,” and in 2000 with “The House of Mirth,” starring Gillian Anderson.

While the novel is perhaps not as well known as Wharton’s other work, like “The House of Mirth,” it has been cited as an influence by “Downton Abbey” creator Julian Fellowes, who has compared the character of Undine Spraggs to such literary heroines as Becky Sharp of “Vanity Fair” and Scarlett O’Hara of “Gone With the Wind.”

The project makes Johansson the latest big-screen star to dabble in the miniseries format, which offers the creative freedom increasingly associated with television and the ability to explore a character in depth, without the potentially years-long commitment of an ongoing series.

She follows the likes of Maggie Gyllenhaal (“The Honorable Woman”), Matthew McConaughey (“True Detective”) and Frances McDormand, lead in the upcoming HBO mini “Olive Kitteridge.”

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