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Special Ops: Lioness release date, cast, and plot for new Nicole Kidman thriller

Yellowstone writer recruits Nicole Kidman and Zoe Saldaña for spy thriller

Zoe Saldana as Joe and Nicole Kidman as Kaitlyn Meade in Special Ops: Lioness. (Paramount+)
Zoe Saldana as Joe and Nicole Kidman as Kaitlyn Meade in Special Ops: Lioness. (Paramount+)

The creative mind behind Yellowstone, Sicario and gangster series Tulsa King returns to the small screen for the new spy thriller Special Ops: Lioness, which debuts on Paramount+ from Sunday, 23 July.

With a star-studded cast working both in front and behind the camera, this exciting-looking new show is developed by former Sons of Anarchy star-turned-hit-series producer Taylor Sheridan.

It’s also one of the few projects of his that don’t involve big hats, dusty horses and cowboys following his previous string of hit rural dramas Yellowstone and its spin-off prequels 1883 and 1223.

So what is Special Ops: Lioness all about?

Well, read on to get clued up on all the key information we have including its plot, cast and where and when you can find it.

When is Special Ops: Lioness released?

Nicole Kidman as Kaitlyn Meade In Special Ops: Lioness. (Paramount+)
Nicole Kidman as Kaitlyn Meade In Special Ops: Lioness. (Paramount+)

Viewers won’t have to wait long to delve into Sheridan’s new spy series; it launches on Paramount+ with two episodes on Sunday, 24 July 2023.

The same release date applies for viewers in the United Kingdom as well as the United States, so we can all enjoy Special Ops: Lioness at the same time, with new episodes of its eight-show arc released each week.

Special Ops: Lioness reviews

Special Ops: Lioness (Paramount+)
Special Ops: Lioness (Paramount+)

With Special Ops: Lioness starting on Paramount+, the first official reviews for Sheridan's new series have started to arrive and many outlets are already shouting about how great it is.

The Evening Standard's Vicky Jessop praised the show's performances, saying they were "uniformly good" and adding that Laysla De Oliveira "shines" as undercover operative Cruz.

Entertainment Weekly had similar thoughts, calling out De Oliveira's role as "a hard-ass survivor who's been on her own since she was a teen" and highlighting Saldaña's "bona fide action star" chops.

Meanwhile, our own write-up reminds readers that underneath all the action there lies a very "human story" that will hopefully carry through throughout the show's eight episodes.

Read our review round-up below:

Yahoo Entertainment: Taylor Sheridan's latest Paramount+ series gets off to a strong start (3-min read)

Evening Standard: Special Ops: Lioness on Paramount+ review: fires on all cylinders (3-min read)

Entertainment Weekly: Taylor Sheridan sends stock female characters to war (4-min read)

Special Ops: Lioness plot

Zoe Saldana as Joe in Special Ops: Lioness (Paramount+)
Zoe Saldana as Joe in Special Ops: Lioness (Paramount+)

With Special Ops: Lioness, showrunner Sheridan promises to take viewers behind enemy lines but from a perspective that’s rarely seen on screen.

In essence, the show follows a group of elite female military operatives who must go undercover and befriend the wives and girlfriends of key terrorists. Their ultimate goal: to gain insight and knowledge that will stop future attacks.

According to the show’s official synopsis, the series was “inspired by an actual US Military program” and follows Joe, an operative who must “balance her personal and professional life as the tip of the CIA's spear in the war on terror.”

Known as The Lioness Program, the series description continues to explain that operatives must “operate undercover… among the power brokers of State terrorism in the CIA's efforts to thwart the next 9/11."

Special Ops: Lioness cast

Laysla De Oliveira as Cruz Manuelos In Special Ops: Lioness. (Paramount+)
Laysla De Oliveira as Cruz Manuelos In Special Ops: Lioness. (Paramount+)

As we’ve already mentioned, the cast for Special Ops: Lioness features plenty of familiar names, with Avatar star Zoe Saldaña appearing as lead character Joe, a key operative in the Lioness Program.

Saldaña also executive produces the show alongside Nicole Kidman who appears in front of the camera as Kaitlyn Meade, Joe’s boss who works alongside Byron, played by House of Cards’ star Michael Kelly.

Together, they’re joined by Oscar-winner Morgan Freeman who will play Edward Mullins, the United States’ Secretary of State. Locke & Key star De Oliveira also stars as Cruz, the rough-and-ready marine who is recruited by Joe into this clandestine programme and sent out into the field.

Elsewhere, the series also features appearances from Dave Annabel, Jill Wagner, LaMonica Garrett and Martin Donovan.

Special Ops: Lioness trailer

Zoe Saldana as Joe In Special Ops: Lioness. (Paramount+)
Zoe Saldana as Joe In Special Ops: Lioness. (Paramount+)

The full official trailer for Special Ops: Lioness dropped in mid-July and gave us a good look at what to expect from Sheridan’s new show.

In it, we find Saldaña’s Joe trying to convince De Oliveira’s Cruz to join The Lioness Programme - and ultimately succeeding. However, once inside, tensions rise as she gets deeper and deeper into a dark and perilous situation where there’s no turning back.

Watch the full trailer below:

The full trailer was preceded by a ‘first look’ teaser which initially set the scene regarding the tone and feel of Special Ops: Lioness.

Special Ops: Lioness airs on Paramount+ from Sunday, 23 July in America and the UK, with new episodes released each week.