Culture / Entertainment

Taylor Sheridan Stays True to Texas With VIP Screening of His Star-Filled New Lioness TV Show — Nicole Kidman Joins the Sheridan-Verse

Fort Worth's Own Prolific Creator Dips Into the World of the CIA

BY // 07.21.23

The newest highest-profile TV series from Fort Worth’s own Academy Award-nominated Taylor Sheridan will premiere with two episodes this Sunday, July 23. But Sheridan is staying true to his North Texas roots with Paramount+ hosting a VIP advance screening of Special Ops: Lioness at the Angelika Theatre in Dallas on Thursday night. (Don’t worry, no spoiler alerts are necessary for this article.)

Lioness is an espionage thriller boasting a star-studded cast. Zoe Saldaña is wearing two hats on the set, acting as the series lead Joe and serving as one of  executive producers. Then there’s co-executive producer and Academy Award winner Nicole Kidman, who plays the role of Kaitlyn Meade. Kidman’s character oversees the CIA’s covert Lioness Program.

The long list of the show’s other executive producers includes both Sheridan and David C. Glasser.

The Lioness advanced screening took place at the Angelika in Dallas. (Photo by Courtney Dabney)
The Lioness advanced screening took place at the Angelika in Dallas. (Photo by Courtney Dabney)

Special Ops: Lioness is produced by Paramount+, MTV Entertainment Studios and David Glasser’s 101 Studios which also produce Sheridan’s Emmy-nominated series Yellowstone, as well his ever-expanding other offerings ― Mayor of Kingstown, 1883, 1923 and Tulsa King. Of course, the Fort Worth native Sheridan has even more irons in the TV fire. The upcoming Lawmen: Bass Reeves starring David Oyelowo and Land Man starring Billy Bob Thornton are also in the works.

Never fear, there are plenty more Taylor Sheridan tales to be told. Even with the Hollywood actors and writers strikes slowing things down at the moment.

The series that launched it all Yellowstone will reportedly end with the completion of Season 5 ― which kicked off with its stars walking the red carpet in Fort Worth last November. Although statements from both Chris McCarthy, president and CEO of Showtime/MTV Entertainment Studios, and 101 Studios CEO David Glasser kind of sidestepped a truly definitive statement that Yellowstone is ending, in favor of touting a potential sequel instead. One which many speculate could have Matthew McConaughey in a leading role.

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Alright, alright, alright ― I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

Taylor Sheridan’s Lioness Roars Onto The Small Screen

Other cast members of Lioness include Laysla De Oliveira, who plays Cruz, described as an aggressive Marine raider; and Emmy Award nominee Michael Kelly, whose character Donald Westfield pulls the strings of the Lioness Program alongside Kidman’s Meade. Academy Award winner Morgan Freeman’s character of Edwin Mullins does not make an appearance in the first episode of the series.

Jill Wagner as Bobby, Thad Luckinbill as Kyle, Zoe Saldana as Joe, James Jordan as Two Cups, Jonah Wharton as Tex, Austin Hébert as Randy in Lioness episode 5, Season 1 streaming on Paramount+. (Photo by Greg Lewis/Paramount+)
Jill Wagner as Bobby, Thad Luckinbill as Kyle, Zoe Saldana as Joe, James Jordan as Two Cups, Jonah Wharton as Tex, Austin Hébert as Randy in Lioness episode 5, Season 1 streaming on Paramount+. (Photo by Greg Lewis/Paramount+)

Lioness has all the usual hallmarks of a Taylor Sheridan series, with a mournful yet orchestral violin playing during the intro’s layered graphics and percussive tones ending a scene, welcoming a commercial break. There are heart-pounding action sequences, mixed with a few perfectly framed shots. And you can bet that every millisecond was planned to move the story along.

The script for Special Ops: Lioness uses an actual U.S. military program as its springboard. It’s described as focusing on “Joe (Saldaña) while she attempts to balance her personal and professional life as the tip of the CIA’s spear in the war on terror. The Lioness Program, overseen by Kaitlyn Meade (Kidman) and Donald Westfield (Kelly), enlists Cruz (De Oliveira) to operate undercover alongside Joe among the power brokers of state terrorism in the CIA’s efforts to thwart the next 9/11,” according to a release.

It’s about what really goes on behind the scenes, as well as on the front lines of CIA covert operations globally. The first episode is titled “Sacrificial Soldiers.” Without giving anything away, sacrifices will have to be made. This new Taylor Sheridan series will detail those tough choices, including the often amoral aspects of a mission-minded agency tasked with keeping Americans safe and making the bad guys pay a price.

Is the newly enlisted Cruz up to the task? We’ll know as this season of Lioness unfolds. One thing is certain. Taylor Sheridan is certainly up for creating more exciting TV.

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