Following “Gomorrah” and “The Young Pope,” Sky continues to bring to the screen fresh edgy TV series with “The King,” which is Italy’s first prison drama but transcends genre tropes to recount the country’s complex way of contending with evil forces, including terrorism.

The dark skein, currently playing in Italy on Comcast-owned Sky’s pay-TV service –– and premiering internationally in competition at Series Mania –– is the brainchild of Italian A-list actor Luca Zingaretti, best known as the titular character in Italy’s widely exported “Inspector Montalbano” series.

After playing a a simpatico Mafia-fighting Sicilian sleuth in “Montalbano,” Zingaretti “wanted to do a show set in an Italian maximum security penitentiary and play a character who was the head of this jail,” says “The King” producer Lorenzo Mieli.

Zingaretti’s character, named Bruno Testori, is the “supreme ruler” of the San Michele penitentiary, which is packed with hard core criminals of various types and located on an unspecified Italian border zone that is not subjected to Italian law.

“Being the custodian of these evil people, he has to negotiate with evil,” says Mieli. This is the only way to try to keep things under control. “But it also causes Testori to risk losing his mind,” he adds.

“So there is this dilemma: Should one negotiate with evil? Can one negotiate with evil? How far can you push?” And “when does this become something that prompts someone to have an identity crisis?”

“This is the element that I found super interesting and with an international appeal,” Mieli notes.

Nils Hartmann, senior VP for Sky Studios Germany and Italy – to whom Mieli brought the “The King” project pitch – pointed out during the show’s Italian presser that “Bad guys [as characters] work well if they are well-constructed and complex.”

Hartmann called Bruno Testori “the bad guy who allows us to sleep well every night.” He also pointed out that “The King” goes beyond classic prison drama conventions because, somewhat similarly to Showtime’s Ben Stiller-directed prison break skein “Escape at Donnemora,” “there is a larger narrative that originates from this microcosm.”

In the case of “The King,” this larger narrative has to do with how Italy contends with terrorism and its ramifications in the country’s jails and also the link between terrorism prevention and the country’s secret services.

As Mieli puts it: “Why is Italy a country that is at the center of terrorism plots, but very rarely actually targeted by terrorism?” Which begs the question: “What happens behind the scenes to prevent this?,” he says. The writing team behind “The King” delved into this question and came up with a story that is fictional but has clear elements of authenticity in this regard.

Head writers on “The King” are Stefano Bises, whose credits include “Gomorrah,” and “ZeroZeroZero,” and Peppe Fiore (“Ultras”). Zingaretti worked closely with the writing team.

The eight-episode show is helmed by Giuseppe Gagliardi who previously directed Sky Italy original “1992,” about Italy’s watershed Clean Hands corruption probe, and its two subsequent seasons.

Joining Zingaretti as Testori on “The King” are Isabella Ragonese (“Rocco Schiavone”) who plays a San Michele prison police agent; Anna Bonaiuto (“Loro,” “My Brother is an Only Child”) as the prosecutor investigating the web of illegal connivances that lead back to Testori; Barbora Bobulova (“Pure Hearts”) as Testori’s ex wife; and Giorgio Colangeli (“Il divo,”) as the prison warden.

The dark Sky skein was produced for Sky Studios by Mieli’s shingle The Apartment and Wildside, both Fremantle-owned companies. They are the producers behind “The New Pope” and “My Brilliant Friend.” Zingaretti’s own Zocotoco shingle is also part of the show’s production team. 

“The King” launched on Sky in Italy on March 18 and will subsequently play on Sky in the U.K., Ireland, Germany, Austria and Spain. Fremantle is handling international distribution.