Handmaid Tale’s Moss to shoot new series in Chicago

(Featureflash Photo Agency / Shutterstock.com)

Cameras are set to roll next month on the new Apple series The Shining Girls starring Emmy Award winner Elisabeth Moss (Mad Men, The Invisble Man), for its streaming service. Leonardo DiCaprio’s Appian Way is set to produce.

Described by Los Angeles-based MRC Entertainment as “a metaphysical thriller,” and not to be confused with the Stephen King novel, The Shining, the new series is based on the 2013 best-selling novel by South African author Lauren Beukes.

In the series, Moss plays Kirby Mazrachi a victim of a serial killer Harper Curtis’ attack, who teams with a reporter for the Chicago Sun-Times who is out to expose him.

A bit of backstory, drifter Curtis finds a key to a house in Depression-era Chicago that opens to other times. But it comes at a cost. He has to kill the shining girls: bright young women who burn with potential, in order to keep going.

At the urging of the house, Harper inserts himself into the lives of these various shining girls, waiting for the perfect moment to strike. He’s the ultimate predator, vanishing without a trace into another time after each murder — until one of his victims survives.

RELATED: Recap: Chicago Fire ‘A Couple Hundred Degrees’

And Moss’ Kirby is that survivor, the last of the “shining girls.” After Harper’s failed attack on her in 1989 Chicago, Kirby wants revenge and starts to hunt him through time. To accomplish that, she joins forces with Sun-Times reporter Dan Velasquez, who covered the case.

NPR critic Alan Cheuse called The Shining Girls “a triumph” and “a marvelous narrative feat that spans the history of Chicago from the 1930s to the 1990s.” 

He complimented Beukes on her in-depth research into Chicago’s history, and described the plot as a “well-made, though extremely complex temporal creation.” 

Another reviewer in the National Post described The Shining Girls as “a thoroughly satisfying thriller” and said that Kirby’s charm is “irresistible and irrepressible,” while Harper reminds one of the 1890s Chicago serial killer H. H. Holmes

The project has been ongoing for several years. In May 2013, it was announced that MRC and Appian Way had bought the television rights. And it was finally in July, 2020, that Apple announced it had given the direct-to-series order for the project.  In February 2021, Wagner Moura was cast to lead opposite Moss.

According to Variety, the 44-year-old Brazilian-born Moura will play reporter Velasquez. Moura is best known to American audiences for his starring role in the Netflix series Narcos, in which he played drug kingpin Pablo Escobar. He also starred opposite Matt Damon and Jodie Foster in the 2013 film Elysium.

In addition to starring, Moss will executive produce through Love & Squalor Pictures alongside Lindsey McManus. Leonardo DiCaprio will executive produce alongside Jennifer Davidson. Author Lauren Beukes and Alan Page Arriaga will also serve as executive producers on the project.

The series will be adapted for television and executive produced by Silka Luisa, who will also serve as showrunner.

The Shining Girls is the latest period piece to call Chicago a home following on the heels of Lovecraft Country, Fargo, Ma Bailey’s Black Bottom and Trial of the Chicago 7.

Stay with Reel Chicago for updates on production.