'Yellowstone' Creator Taylor Sheridan's Next Project Takes on the Military's Lioness Program

Zoe Saldaña as the CIA spy manager Joe in 'Lioness.' (Lynsey Addario/Paramount+)

During the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, insurgents began exploiting the cultural sensitivities around male U.S. troops searching local women. Women became a loophole for smuggling and other terrorist activities. To mitigate this threat, the Marine Corps created Task Force Lioness, teams of female Marines who did what men could not.

The effort worked. The Marine Corps and Army began to employ Lioness teams to deter insurgents from using women in their attacks. In real life, these women became known as female engagement teams. In a new show from "Yellowstone" co-creator Taylor Sheridan, it looks like the Lionesses are going to do more than engage a female population.

Called "Special Ops: Lioness," the Paramount+ spy thriller stars Zoe Saldaña ("Guardians of the Galaxy”) as Lioness station chief "Joe," Nicole Kidman as CIA supervisor Kaitlyn Meade and Morgan Freeman as Secretary of State Edwin Mullins. Also joining the cast is Laysla De Oliveira from the Netflix horror series "Locke & Key"; she plays Marine Cruz Manuelos.

Laysla De Oliveira as Cruz Manuelos in "Special Ops: Lioness." (Lynsey Addario/Paramount+)

While the real-world Lioness missions expanded beyond searching women to running medical clinics, distributing medicine and humanitarian aid, and meeting in Afghan homes, the women of "Special Ops: Lioness" became covert spies, infiltrators and potentially assassins attached to the CIA.

The onscreen mission of the expanded Lioness program trains women as covert operatives and deploys them to trouble spots around the world. "Special Ops: Lioness" follows the story of a young Marine who is recruited by the CIA to befriend the daughter of a terrorist group in order to bring down the organization from within.

Zoe Saldana and Nicole Kidman in Taylor Sheridan’s new espionage drama, "Special Ops: Lioness." (Ramona Rosales/Paramount+)

Don't expect the campy 007, Bond Girl style of female spy. Sheridan's style of storytelling is known for its gritty, realistic and often violent nature. Sheridan's show "1923" begins with Helen Mirren chasing down a man and killing him with a shotgun. "Mayor of Kingstown" is about prison towns, and "Tulsa King" is about a Mafia capo who is sent to Oklahoma to expand a criminal organization.

"Special Ops: Lioness" is set to debut on Paramount+ this summer, but a release date has yet to be announced.

-- Blake Stilwell can be reached at blake.stilwell@military.com. He can also be found on Twitter @blakestilwell or on LinkedIn.

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