ABC1's new 10-part one-hour drama series, The Straits, has started production in Cairns and the Torres Strait Islands.

The crime drama series stars Emmy Award-winning Scottish actor Brian Cox (The Bourne Supremacy, Troy) as Harry Montebello, the head of a family of smugglers, which transports drugs into Australia and guns and exotic wildlife out, making use of ties of blood and loyalty in the Torres Strait Islands.

When Harry starts to plan his succession he sparks a vicious family power struggle, forcing the family to hold together through torture, assassination and imprisonment.

The Straits is produced by Matchbox Pictures’ Penny Chapman and Helen Panckhurst, who were the team behind the Torres Strait-set TV series
RAN: Remote Area Nurse.

“We have assembled an extraordinary cast, including a large number of talented Torres Strait Islander and Papua New Guinea actors," Panckhurst said in a statement.

"We are delighted to be collaborating once again with our Torres Strait Islander friends in showcasing this extraordinary part of the world.”

The Straits is based on an idea by East West 101 actor Aaron Fa’aoso, which has been developed by a team of writers including Louis Nowra (Cosi); Blake Ayshford (Crownies, All Saints); Nick Parsons (Two Twisted, Dead Heart); Kristen Dunphy (East West 101, White Collar Blue); and Jaime Browne (The King, The Secret Life of Us).

Fa'aoso  will star alongside Rena Owen (Once Were Warriors), who will play Harry’s wife Kitty; as well as Firass Dirani (Underbelly); Jimi Bani (RAN, The Sapphires) and Suzannah Bayes-Morton (All Saints, The Tumbler).

The series will be directed by Peter Andrikidis (East West 101, Underbelly); Rachel Ward (Beautiful Kate); and Rowan Woods (The Boys, Little Fish).

The Straits is produced with assistance from ABC TV, Screen Queensland, Screen NSW, Screen Australia, Screen Tasmania and international distributor DCD Rights.