Shooting started Monday in Sardinia on season three of pubcaster RAI’s TV drama “The Hunter” about a Palermo prosecutor with a killer instinct for tracking down top Mafiosi. The widely-exported Italian show is set for a major twist since the lead will transition from a male magistrate to a female mobster hunter.

Rising local talent Linda Caridi, seen recently in Venice fest opener “The Ties” – where she plays the illicit lover who unties a marriage – has been cast as magistrate Paola Romano. During the course of the new season of “The Hunter” she will eventually replace her colleague Saverio Barone, played by Francesco Montanari, and become the new anti-Mafia prosecutor at the show’s center.

Montanari, incidentally, won the best performance prize for that role at Canneseries in 2018 where “The Hunter,” which is sold by Beta Film, made an international splash.

“I am really happy because this third season will take a new turn in terms of character arc,” “The Hunter” producer Rosario Rinaldo told Variety. Rinaldo’s Cross Productions, in which Beta holds a stake, is the shingle also behind gritty detective series “Rocco Schiavone,” which plays on Starz and Amazon Prime in the U.S. “The Hunter” has been sold by Beta to some 60 territories.

While during the first two seasons of “The Hunter” Montanari played “an epic character obsessed with his sense of duty” on a mission to nab evil Cosa Nostra members, the desensitized macho magistrate in the third installment starts experiencing “very human feelings such as fear,” Rinaldo said. This leads Barone to become “more empathetic and less constricted” and to eventually “pass the baton to a woman prosecutor,” who is less of a loner and more of a team player, the producer added.

Rinaldo praised Caridi, who broke out in Italy for her lead role in Valerio Mieli’s romancer “Remember?,” for being “at the same time sweet and delicate, but also strong,” which “is what we were looking for,” he said.

The show’s producer said he has planned a 16-week shoot with production soon moving from the Sardinian town of Alghero, which is standing in for a Spanish village, to Palermo, and then to Rome.

“Every day is a gamble,” Rinaldo said, referring to the risk that the shoot could be forced to stop due to COVID-19. “But I am glad that we are going forward,” he added. He said implementation of Italy’s sanitary protocols for production is adding roughly 10% to the budget.

Rinaldo thanked RAI Fiction, which has been behind “The Hunter” from the start but has greenlit the third season despite the the pubcaster’s bureaucratic impasse due to the departure in June of its former drama chief Eleonora Andreatta, who is now with Netflix and has not been replaced.

The show originated by writers Marcello Izzo, Silvia Ebreul, and Alfonso Sabella – and based on a book by Sabella, who is a former anti-Mafia magistrate – is directed by Fabio Paladini and Davide Marengo.