Movies & TV

Rebecca Ferguson Is Available to Join Dune: The Sisterhood

"I’m currently free in 2023, May to December, so I’m just putting that out there," the actress said of HBO Max's upcoming Dune spin-off.

The world of Dune is remarkably vast, spanning planetary systems and parsecs. It's so enormous, in fact, that one movie couldn't contain even half the plot of Book One of the source material—which, as Chris Nashawaty argues in his review of the film for Esquire, is actually a good thing. There are many good things about Dune (like Duncan Idaho, for example) and with excitement at an all-time high following the release of Denis Villeneuve blockbuster adaptation, HBO Max is developing a television prequel series called Dune: The Sisterhood, which promises to take viewers behind the scenes of a mysterious matriarchal order with superhuman abilities.

Here’s everything we know about the series so far.

In June 2019, WarnerMedia gave a straight-to-series order for Dune: The Sisterhood. Set in the universe of Frank Herbert’s Dune, this prequel will focus on the Bene Gesserit, a secretive matriarchal order of nuns, spies, scientists, and theologians with superhuman abilities, whose powers include mind control, hyperawareness, and collective memory, among other extraordinary talents. (If you've seen the film, this is the community of Paul's mother.)

What does that mean, exactly? In the books, the Bene Gesserit are an ancient order of women who have mastered their minds and bodies through mental conditioning to gain superhuman powers. The Sisterhood uses its knowledge and power to help guide humanity according to their own plan of the future. And while their history—and purpose—isn't well known, members of the Sisterhood often work as advisors, wives, or concubines to leaders of the Great Houses, crafting alliances that help drive events toward their own somewhat shadowy goals.


In Children of Dune, Herbert writes of the Bene Gesserit’s credo:

Religion is the emulation of the adult by the child. Religion is the encystment of past beliefs: mythology, which is guesswork, the hidden assumptions of trust in the universe, those pronouncements which men have made in search of personal power, all of it mingled with shreds of enlightenment. And always the ultimate unspoken commandment is 'Thou shall not question!' But we question. We break that commandment as a matter of course. The work to which we have set ourselves is the liberating of the imagination, the harnessing of imagination to humankind's deepest sense of creativity.

Villeneuve is attached to direct the pilot and Jon Spaihts, his co-writer for the Dune film script, is attached to write. Villeneuve and Spaiths will also executive produce the series, along with the late Frank Herbert’s children, Brian Herbert and Kim Herbert.

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“The Bene Gesserit have always been fascinating to me,” Villeneuve said. “Focusing a series around that powerful order of women seemed not only relevant and inspiring, but a dynamic setting for the television series.”

When asked if Lady Jessica would figure into the show, Villeneuve declined to answer, but Rebecca Ferguson, who plays the character in the new film, is on board. "If it’s a thing, I’m game," she said. "I’m currently free in 2023, May to December, so I’m just putting that out there." For what it's worth, Nashawaty called her performance "note-perfect," which would not be a bad way to start this project.

Dune: The Sisterhood has found its show-runner in Diane Ademu-John, who most recently worked as an executive producer and writer on Netflix’s The Haunting of Bly Manor. Her previous credits include, Empire, The Vampire Diaries, and Crossing Jordan.

While it's not clear when exactly this series will take place in the thousands of years of history that have been explored in the Dune saga, this description from The Hollywood Reporter gives us some idea:

Herbert’s Dune novel examines a future in which humanity has spread across the galaxy to thousands of worlds, all ruled by the Padishah Emperor, The Imperium. Dune: The Sisterhood takes place in the same universe and explores the future through the eyes of a mysterious order of women: the Bene Gesserit. Given abilities by their mastery of the body and the mind, the Bene Gesserit expertly weave through the feudal politics and intrigue of The Imperium, pursuing plans of their own that will ultimately lead them to the enigmatic planet Arrakis — known to its inhabitants as Dune.


This sounds like the series will take place leading up to the events of Dune and the Bene Gesserit's political maneuvers throughout the universe. Mum’s the word on release dates, but the promising thing for fans of Dune is that THR reports that this series is all part of Legendary Entertainment's “larger plan for Dune, which also includes video games, digital content packages and comic book series.”

Watch this space for updates as we continue to learn more.

FromEsquire US

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Adrienne Westenfeld is a writer and editor at Esquire, where she covers books and culture.
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