Keira Knightley drops out of Apple TV+ series due to 'childcare concerns'

Keira Knightley has dropped out of the lead role of the TV adaptation of The Essex Serpent due to reported concerns over pandemic childcare.

The 35-year-old was set to play the lead role of Cora in the Apple TV+ adaptation of the 2016 novel by Sarah Perry.

However, Knightley has ‘had to unfortunately pull out’ of the Gothic mystery project, with filming due to start in a few weeks. 

A spokesperson for the actress confirmed to the Daily Mail that she pulled out of The Essex Serpent for ‘family reasons’, explaining that due to the rise of Covid-19 cases in the UK and the potential for further lockdown restrictions, ‘there wasn’t a comfortable scenario for Keira that could be put in place for an extended period of childcare required for the four-and-a-half-month production’.

Knightley is mum to five-year-old Edie and one-year-old Delilah, who she shares with her Klaxons star husband James Righton, 37.

According to the Daily Mail, the production was scheduled to begin filming in six weeks’ time; however, the crew was informed earlier this week that the drama was being put on ‘hiatus’ after Knightley stepped down from the role.

It is believed that the Pirates Of The Caribbean star was also executive producer on The Essex Serpent.

The move was reportedly a shock to freelance staff, who have already been hit hard by the shutdown of production on films and TV shows due to pandemic restrictions. 

It is unclear who will replace Knightley in the role, and when production will resume. 

The Essex Serpent is set in 1893 and follows Cora, a recent widow who is freed of her abusive husband and moves to the Essex countryside with her son.

Here, she becomes interested in the legend of a mythical Essex serpent.

The novel sold over 280,000 copies and was named the Book Of The Year at the 2016 British Book Awards.

Knightley has previously hit out at the ‘archaic’ maternity and paternity leave system in the UK, and advocates for equal leave for parents.

Speaking to Harper’s Bazaar in 2016, the Atonement star said: ‘I think I’ve become unbelievably aware of that and how lucky I’ve been to be able to afford really good childcare, because otherwise it would be at least four years out of my career.

‘I wouldn’t be able to get back to where I’d been if I’d taken four years out. I think that’s the same for most women. And I think that’s really hard.’

She added: ‘I think paternity leave should be the same as maternity leave. It’s shocking. Because you need that option. And actually, when you’re thinking about an employer looking at a man and a woman thinking, “Well, at some point you could take nine months or however long off, and the guy doesn’t have to.” Don’t tell me that that doesn’t come into it! 

‘You need to be a family unit, not just have the guy there for two weeks and then go back to work and the mother left desperately trying to figure it out. I think it’s archaic that there aren’t better options.’

Metro.co.uk has contacted Knightley’s rep for comment. 

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