Who Should Play the Pioneering Artists in Amazon’s New TV Show ‘Ninth Street Women’? Here Are Our Dream Casting Picks
Amazon Prime is developing a new show based on Mary Gabriel's hit book.
An illustrious group of artists—Elaine de Kooning, Helen Frankenthaler, Grace Hartigan, Lee Krasner, and Joan Mitchell—are coming to Amazon Prime! The streaming service has announced plans for a new television series, Ninth Street Women, developed by husband-and-wife duo Amy Sherman-Palladino and Daniel Palladino, who are also behind Gilmore Girls and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.
The new series is based on Mary Gabriel’s book of the same name, which traces the intersecting lives and careers of the five women painters, all of whom were part of the historic artist-organized exhibition “Ninth Street Show” in New York in 1951.
A fascinating, hyper-detailed portrait of the post-war avant-garde art scene in New York, the book paints vibrant portraits not only of its main characters, but also of such artistic greats as Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, Arshile Gorky, Franz Kline, Hans Hofmann, and many others.
It’s a story ripe for the screen, full of personal struggles, creative genius, and romantic dramas. The de Koonings, for example, living under almost constant threat of eviction, have their union tested by excessive alcohol consumption and public extramarital affairs. Their close friend Gorky tragically hangs himself in 1948, meanwhile, and Hartigan’s best friend, the poet and critic Frank O’Hara, dies in a car crash in 1966.
For Sherman-Palladino, it’s the chance to do another New York period piece, set in much the same era as Mrs. Maisel—which featured an episode set largely at artist hang-out the Ceder Bar, with a Pollock-esque alcoholic artist named Declan Howell—as well as to write some more lightning-quick exchanges between female characters.
When Amazon Studios signed a deal with the couple in February to develop new projects, studio head Jennifer Salke praised them for creating “revolutionary roles for women… with their trademark brilliant dialogue.”
Indeed, regardless of who eventually stars in the project, they’ll have to meet at least that one crucial criteria: “They gotta talk fast! They have to talk really fast,” Sherman-Palladino once told Backstage of her casting requirements.
Projects like this can take years, if they get made at all—Amazon previously optioned, but never produced, Womanhouse, a series from Jill Soloway about Judy Chicago and Miriam Schapiro’s feminist art installation with the CalArts Feminist Art Program in Los Angeles—so you have plenty of time to complete the 944-page tome. And you can catch Gabriel in person on May 16, when she gives a lecture about the book at the Art Students League of New York.
In the meantime, here are some picks for our Ninth Street Women dream cast.
Sarah Paulson (age 44) as Lee Krasner (1908–1984)
Krasner was the guardian of Pollock’s career and legacy, but also was equally committed to her own artistic practice. She also remained strong and fearless in the face of his alcoholic rages, making it the perfect role for Paulson, who has faced down all number of terrors in the TV show American Horror Story.
Christian Bale (age 45) as Jackson Pollock (1912–1956)
Bale has proven he’s up to the challenge of dramatic transformation time and again, so we think he’d be perfect for the Pollock, a warm and affable man when sober who succumbs to violent rage under the influence of alcohol.
Rose Leslie (age 32) as Elaine de Kooning (1918–1989)
Rose Leslie has Elaine de Kooning’s fiery red hair, and she’s played another fiercely independent role in Game of Thrones. Plus, she’s already perfected her American accent on her current show, The Good Fight.
Peter Skarsgaard (age 48) as Willem de Kooning (1904–1998)
The American actor looks remarkably similar to the legendary Dutch painter. Plus, the age gap between him and Rose Leslie (as our fantasy Elaine de Kooning) is just right.
Elizabeth Debicki (age 28) as Grace Hartigan (1922–2008)
After no less than 17 nominations in her last film, Windows, Debicki is perfectly poised to take on the meaty role of Hartigan, who makes the difficult decision to essentially give up her son in order to pursue her career in art.
Rachel Brosnahan (age 29) as Joan Mitchell (1925–1992)
Like many directors, Sherman-Pallidino enjoys working with cast members across projects, so it may only be natural for her to team up again with Brosnahan, who plays the title role in Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, a second time. A former favorite of the Chicago society pages and a teen figure skating champ, Mitchell was something of a golden girl, much like Midge Maisel.
Hailee Steinfeld (age 22) as Helen Frankenthaler (1928–2011)
The youngest of Ninth Street‘s women, Frankenthaler possessed an innate confidence and poise. Steinfeld, nominated for an Oscar at the age of just 14, should be up to the challenge of portraying this fearless new addition to the downtown art scene, who dated esteemed critic Clement Greenberg despite a 19-year age difference.
Corey Stoll (age 43) as Clement Greenberg (1909–1944)
Known for his roles in Ant-Man and House of Cards, Stoll has the perfect gravitas to play the eminent art critic who championed Pollock and changed the course of art history. Plus, he is bald like Greenberg, even if he is admittedly better looking. But hey, it’s Hollywood.
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