‘Downton Abbey’ Creator Julian Fellowes Developing Royal Drama With Simon Cowell’s Syco

EXCLUSIVE: Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes is developing a royal drama based on the Queen’s art collection with The X Factor producer Syco.

Fellowes, who has written the forthcoming movie based on the ITV period drama, is working on a series about The Royal Collection, which is the art collection of the British Royal Family and is the largest collection in the world.

It marks Syco’s first move into scripted drama in the UK, having had huge success with entertainment formats such as The X Factor and Got Talent.

Nigel Hall, Syco’s Global Head of TV, told Deadline that it had struck a development deal with Fellowes, who is also working on The Gilded Age for NBC. “We’re doing story behind portraits in the royal collection. This came out of conversations about every great film like The Duchess. The portraits hang in the royal collection and there’s incredible stories behind them,” he said. “Every episode, which is Julian’s idea, ends with the portrait being painted. For instance, one of the stories is a servant who worked for three kings and the queen. It’s a bit like The Butler. They’re all fascinating stories.”

Syco is working with talent agency CAA on the project but hasn’t yet taken the series to market.

Spread across 13 historic royal residencies in the UK, the collection is owned by Queen Elizabeth II and overseen by the Royal Collection trust. There are around 1m objects including 7,000 painting and 30,000 watercolours and drawings as well as photographs and furniture.

Cowell and his company Syco have long been interested in moving into scripted television. Last year, it emerged that the music impresario was developing a scripted comedy A&R for NBC, telling the story of a young, hip music boss and his middle-aged ‘mastodon’ employer.

“In the end, we’re a very small and bespoke company. Sometimes it can be a dating show or something like the royal collection, I’ve never done scripted before, but how hard can it be, I’m going to give it a go,” added Hall.

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