Kylie Minogue is to return to television a quarter of a century after she quit Australian soap opera Neighbours to appear in a black comedy drama on Sky.
The diminutive star’s appearance in Hey Diddly Dee will be her first screen role since it was revealed at the weekend that she was taking a break from her singing to pursue her acting career.
The signing is a coup for Sky and its Playhouse Presents series on digital channel Sky Arts, which has previously featured big name stars such as Jon Hamm, Daniel Radcliffe and Emma Thompson.
Minogue will star opposite Homeland star David Harewood in the whodunnit about a group of actors putting on a play about Andy Warhol. Peter Serafinowicz plays the Warhol character, with Minogue starring as the artist’s muse, in an Edie Sedgwick-style female lead.
The one-off comedy drama is made by Stephen Fry and Sandi Toksvig’s production company, Sprout, and written and directed by actor Marc Warren.
Minogue’s acting appearances have been few and far between since she left Neighbours in 1988 and went on to sell nearly 70 million records worldwide.
Critics have not always been complementary — her role in Street Fighter opposite Jean-Claude Van Damme in 1994 prompted the Washington Post to call her “the worst actress in the English-speaking world.”
But Minogue, who made a brief return to television for the Doctor Who Christmas special on BBC1 in 2007, earned rave reviews for her most recent role in Leos Carax film, Holy Motors, last year.
“I’d definitely love to do more acting. My heart cries out for it; it’s such a deep longing,” she said in an interview at the time. “For years I’ve been waiting to get back into it and it just hasn’t happened. Or, it has happened and it was so disastrous that I thought: ‘Oh, it’s just not for me.’”
Other stars who will appear in Sky Arts Playhouse Presents strand this year will include Vanessa Redgrave and Anna Friel, with Doctor Who star Matt Smith and Idris Elba, of The Wire and BBC1’s Luther, to make their directing debuts (along with Warren).
Turner prize-winning artist Grayson Perry has also co-created a 30-minute film, Mr Understood, with Kate Hardie a “deeply personal” comic drama.
It is part of 70 hours of new drama commissioned by big-spending Sky across its entertainment channels Sky1, Sky Atlantic, Sky Living and Sky Arts, as it looks to take on the BBC, ITV and Channel 4 in homegrown entertainment.
Its biggest ever drama slate, other new Sky shows include Fleming, starring Dominic Cooper as James Bond creator Ian Fleming, and The Reckless Season, five original dramas about women by some of Britain’s most renowned female writers, including Sally Wainwright and Annie Griffin.
Sky’s head of drama, Anne Mensah, told journalists at a lunch organised by the Broadcasting Press Guild that: “I think there’s a drama renaissance going on at the moment ... to add Sky to that mix, anything that Sky does makes the drama community in the UK just richer and more exciting.”
Sky has pledged to increase its spending on UK production by 50 per cent to £600 million (Dh3,498 million) by 2014, although its shows attract only a fraction of the audiences of comedy and drama on BBC1 or ITV. It is also developing a new medical drama with the working title Critical, by Jed Mercurio, who wrote the acclaimed but short-lived Bodies for BBC3.