European pay-TV operator Sky has greenlit production of Italian prison drama “The King,” toplining Luca Zingaretti, best known as the titular character in the popular “Inspector Montalbano” series.

In “The King” Zingaretti will play Buno Testori, chief of the San Michele penitentiary, where “he applies his own personal idea of justice,” according to a Sky synopsis. The innovative show is being produced for Sky by Lorenzo Mieli’s shingle The Apartment in collaboration with Wildside, producer of “The New Pope” and “My Brilliant Friend.” Both are Fremantle-owned companies.

Shooting on the eight-episode series, directed by Giuseppe Gagliardi (“1992”), is expected to start by early next year in Rome, Turin, and Trieste locations. Fremantle is handling international sales.

The screenplay of “The King” is penned by Stefano Bises (“Gomorrah”), Peppe Fiore (“The Young Pope”), Bernardo Pellegrini (“Non Uccidere), and Davide Serino (“The Comedians”).

According to the Sky synopsis, the San Michele prison is not subject to Italian law. Instead the law is Bruno Testori, who is “ruthless with those who deserve it and unexpectedly merciful with others, always according to his own distorted and obscure morality.”

“But when his kingdom risks collapse, threatened by an imminent danger, Bruno finds himself fighting the most difficult war of his life,” the synopsis reads.

“It took years of working with Luca (Zingaretti) and the writers to finally get to where we are today with ‘The King,'” Mieli said in a statement.

Sky Italia exec VP programming Nicola Maccanico, underlined that Zingaretti, who is among Italy’s “most popular and well-loved actors,” as he put it, now “joins the world of Sky, in a dark role that is nothing like anything he has ever done before.”

“This is probably the best way to describe not only the direction that we’ve taken with our series work, but also the way we wish to expand the horizon of our originals,” Maccanico added.

“Montalbano,” in which Zingaretti plays the titular Sicilian sleuth who is a Mafia fighting foodie, airs on pubcaster RAI where it is a regular ratings champ. The show has been exported across Europe – it plays on the BBC in the U.K.– and also in the U.S.