It's not uncommon for the Underworld franchise to change up the male lead every other movie. After four instalments spread over 12 years the only significant casting constant has been the presence of Kate Beckinsale's Vampire/Corvinus hybrid Selene. Since the series' inception Scott Speedman, Michael Sheen and Theo James have all cycled through among others, returning at different intervals to fight in the Vampire/Lycan war.
It seems the next instalment will not break the pattern, since it has just been announced that another male lead has been added to Underworld: Next Generation, the fifth iteration of the series. This time there is a new leader of the Lycans running things, ostensibly replacing Stephen Rea who played Dr. Jacob Lane in 2012's Underworld: Awakening.
Deadline reports that Tobias Menzies (Outlander) has just been cast as Marius, the mysterious new leader of the Lycans. This will be his second time working with director Anna Foerster (Criminal Minds). The first female director of the franchise, Foerster is best known for her TV work, directing four episodes of Outlander in 2015 including the violent and emotional final two episodes of Season 1.
No other new casting announcements or character details have been released so far. As previously reported, Menzies will be joining James, who is returning to the franchise after appearing in the 2012 soft reboot Underworld: Awakening. Both actors are easily recognizable these days, and James' stock has risen considerably since starring as Four in the popular YA movie series Divergent. Menzies has long been a staple in television acting in critical hits like Rome, Game of Thrones, and the Honourable Woman.
This is a smart casting choice for a franchise clearly looking to once again try and inject new life into the series after a string of sequels and reboots. Though no one could hope to replace Bill Nighy as the vampire Viktor, the movies without him have lacked a certain authority. Between that and the loss of Michael Sheen as Lucian the movies are in need of some additional gravitas. The addition of Menzies' consistent and often menacing presence should add to the overall cast charisma.
There's no telling if Next Generation will have the same restorative power as other successful reboots like X-Men: First Class. However with the focus on a younger new cast this could easily spawn a number of different spin offs and sequels, until the inevitable remake.
Underworld: Next Generation will be released on October 21st, 2016.