Natascha McElhone to Star in Italy-Set Period Drama 'Hotel Portofino'

Natascha McElhone in "Designated Survivor" (Photo: ABC)
Natascha McElhone in "Designated Survivor" (Photo: ABC)

Former Designated Survivor star Natascha McElhone is set to star in period drama Hotel Portofino, a historical family story that takes place on the Italian Riviera during the 1920s.

The series will be a classic whodunnit-style mystery with clues and revelations woven throughout, as the characters go about their daily lives in an Italy where Benito Mussolini’s brand of fascism was on the rise.

It is the first original commission from London-based production firm Eagle Eye Drama, the folks behind the remake of the Belgian crime drama Professor T that's coming to Masterpiece later this summer. 

McElhone will play  Bella Ainsworth, the daughter of a wealthy industrialist who moves to Italy to set up a quintessentially British hotel in the picturesque town of Portofino. Home Fires' Mark Umbers plays her charming if somewhat dangerous aristocratic husband and The Hour's Anna Chancellor is Lady Latchmere, the hotel’s most influential and demanding guest.

Other notable cast members include Italian star Daniele Pecci as the charismatic Count Carlo Albani, Marco Polo's Lorenzo Richelmy as his son Roberto Albani, and Rocco Fasano as the anti-fascist activist Gianluca Vitali.

Interestingly enough, PBS Distribution has already grabbed the U.S. rights to this series. What that ultimately means - whether Hotel Portofino will go to PBS Passport, the Amazon Prime PBS  subchannel, or air linearly on local stations, or some combination of the above - is up in the air. But, with the success of recent foreign imports like Seaside Hotel, Line of Separation, and Professor T, there are certainly multiple options to bring the project to U.S. viewers.

“We are thrilled to be bringing to U.S. and Canadian audiences the first original series coming from Eagle Eye,” said Andrea Downing, president of PBS Distribution, said in a statement. “This beautifully crafted series will have viewers immersed in an intensely lush production filled with mystery.”

What do you think of the idea of Hotel Portofino? (Pre-World War II Italy is definitely not an era of history I have a ton of familiarity with, but if I've learned anything this year it's that I kind of like that stuff?) Let's discuss in the comments.