Chris Cooper Takes Lead Role in Discovery’s First Miniseries

Chris Cooper (Photo: Getty Images)

The Discovery Channel is poised to shift its focus from non-fiction to fiction with a scripted miniseries about the Alaska gold rush of the 1890s.

The miniseries — titled “Klondike” — will be Discovery’s first-ever scripted show. And to spearhead its move into dramatic television, the network has cast movie actor Chris Cooper (“Capote,” “American Beauty”) in one of the mini’s lead roles, reports

Cooper, 61, will play one of six strangers whose paths will cross in the Klondike, the Deadline story says. Cooper’s character is some sort of self-styled minister with a violent past who comes to the gold-rush region to prospect for souls to save.

The miniseries is being adapted from a novel, “Gold Diggers: Striking It Rich In The Klondike,” by Charlotte Gray. There was no word on when “Klondike,” which is still in the early stages of production, would eventually air.

The Deadline story suggests that Discovery has been inspired by one of its competitors, History Channel, to explore the benefits of producing based-on-fact historical dramas.

We happen to agree with that assessment. History made a big splash last spring with the Kevin Costner miniseries “Hatfields & McCoys.” Actually, “big splash” is an understatement: “Hatfields & McCoys” averaged nearly 14 million viewers on each of its three nights — unheard-of ratings for an original production on cable. History’s next scripted drama is “Vikings,” starring Gabriel Byrne. It’s due to premiere March 3.

Despite this foray into fiction programming, we expect that the lion’s share of Discovery programming will continue to be its non-fiction documentaries and unscripted reality shows.

In fact, this new “Klondike” fiction series is compatible with at least one show Discovery already airs — the hugely popular “Gold Rush,” about modern-day prospectors in Alaska.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

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