Actress Scarlett Johansson is set to star in a new Sony TV show called Custom of the Country. It’s based on Edith Wharton’s 1913 novel of the same name. Johansson will play Undine Spragg, a Midwestern girl who comes to New York City and will do anything to rise in Manhattan’s high society. She marries for money, becomes pregnant, neglects her son, has affairs, divorces, loses her high position in society and then scrambles up the social ladder again. High drama.
The term Custom of the Country refers to the “custom of the money paid by a master to get a girl’s maidenhead.” (Maidenhead means virginity.) It’s suggested that the title came from Montaigne’s essay “On Husbanding Your Will.” The novel is also said to be an inspiration for Downton Abbey created by Julian Fellowes, who won the Edith Wharton Lifetime Achievement Award in 2012. While accepting the award, he said of Scarlett Johansson’s new character: “Undine has no values except ambition, greed and desire, and yet through the miracle of Wharton’s writing, you are on her side.” The eight-episode series of Custom of the Country is said to be “about to hit the marketplace” and is being eyed for a cable run.