Lena Headey has found her first post-Cersei role as the lead in Rita, the Showtime remake of a Danish TV series. She will also be executive producer, with original show creator Christian Torpe will writing the pilot and serving as showrunner.
Rita is a comedy-drama about a snarky teacher and single mother with a chip on her shoulder when she deals with authority. The original Danish TV series is on Netflix and had been on my to-watch list for over a year. Okay, I decided it was finally time to at least watch the pilot.
"Rita" Has a History of Successful Remakes
I did a bit of research and discovered that there was a US pilot starring Anna Gunn produced in 2013 that wasn't picked up. Rita lasted four seasons in Denmark and had seen other remakes: Dutch TV remade the first season as Tessa in 2015 and French TV remade it as Sam.
It feels like Showtime is considering Rita as replacement for Shameless (which was a remake of a British show). For more than 10 years, Showtime earned a reputation for shows featuring female protagonists who buck the system, rebel against the patriarchy by bending the rules or breaking the law, misbehave gleefully, and are good at their jobs. This trend began with Weeds and continued with The Big C, The United States of Tara, Nurse Jackie and also Shameless. Rita has all the items for a "Showtime series with female protagonist" checklist.
Single mother protagonist who takes no shit? Check.
Gay teenage son grappling with his sexuality? Check.
Dysfunctional but loving family? Check.
Makes some bad decisions while trying to stay in control? Check.
Having sex with a guy she probably shouldn't? Check.
Younger trainee who latches onto her as a mentor? Check.
She's really good at her job? Check.
Here's What's in the Original Pilot
Rita is a teacher who's a bit of a rebel. She smokes, wears tight jeans and a black leather jacket, signifiers for "Rebel Who Follows Their Own Rules." She has two sons and a daughter. Her oldest son is getting married to the daughter of the man Rita once dated when she was younger and might have been the father of her oldest son. Her son's future mother-in-law is an uptight middle-class square who disapproves of Rita. Rita's middle son is a teenager grappling with his sexuality and realising he's gay, though everyone already knows.
Rita is friends-with-benefits with the principal, her boss. In fact, they're having sex in his office when he gets a phone call from a parent with a complaint about her. Rita and the principal meet the overbearing mother of an overbearing, entitled student where she pretty much tells the woman to f-off. An eager and naive trainee teacher looks up to Rita as a mentor. In private, Rita feels the cracks in her cool façade as she tries to avoid her flaws and dysfunctions. She has to fight helicopter parents who warp their kids' heads with PC platitudes and ridiculous beliefs.
All this is in the original Danish pilot of the show. I can imagine Headey watching it and deciding "I'll have some of that." The role makes for a fresh palette-cleanser after a decade of playing Cersei on Game of Thrones.
Who doesn't want to play a sexy rebel teacher in a black leather jacket?
So What Will Showtime's Remake Be like?
But let's not jump ahead of ourselves. Showtime has only commissioned a pilot episode before deciding whether to greenlight a whole series. Chances are good right now since they want to be in business with Headey, who's hot off HBO's recently wrapped Game of Thrones. Headey is a big name after Game of Thrones and could use a new gig with a different creative perspective, while Showtime is always looking for new material. Rita is a known quantity with a successful four-season run on Danish television. This being Showtime, you can expect the US remake to be much edgier with more sex, more "shocking" dialogues, and a punch up to Rita's fights with officious, entitled, and overbearing parents. I'm willing to bet there will be an episode about anti-vaxxer parents.
It'll be interesting to see how much of the original pilot they use for the US pilot. I bet they'll use nearly all of them – though this being a US show, there's a very good chance it will be more glamourous and feature more good-looking people. It's also possible that after they review the pilot, the network might pass on the show. If that happens, consider all the above a thought experiment. If they end up greenlighting a series, we can all say we talked about it here first and feel very clever.
Personally, I'd like to see a show where Cersei is a teacher in a US high school… but we can't have everything.
The original four seasons of the Danish version of Rita is streaming on Netflix.