Australia-native Alice Englert is convinced that the emphasis should be put on the first word in the title of her new Starz series, “Dangerous Liaisons,” rather than the second.

“I think what’s interesting about the show and the story, in general, and always has been as well, is that if it’s not love, it is war.  If it is war, is it love?  You know?,” Englert says. She laughs and adds “Some of the most compelling feelings I’ve had about another person certainly haven’t been love. They might have been lust or obsession, or maybe even you recognize something injured in them that’s injured in you.

“Love kind of is not nearly as interesting as what these two have between each other. I think so often at the heart of what’s so painful about what we feel is love is we’re wondering, is it love?”

This version of “Dangerous Liaisons” is a prelude to Pierre Choderlos de Laclos’ 1782 novel and focuses on the origin story of how Camile (Englert) – who is taken in by the current Madame de Merteuil played by Lesley Manville – and the Vicomte de Valmont (Nicholas Denton) meet as passionate young lovers in Paris on the eve of the revolution. Driven to right the wrongs of their past, the young couple’s survival depends on their skills of seduction and manipulation of not only the French nobility but of each other.

The Starz production is the latest adaptation of the novel. Glenn Close starred in the 1988 film “Dangerous Liaisons” while Sara Michelle Gellar was at the center of the 1999 movie “Cruel Intentions” that was a modern take on the tale.

Harriet Warner, the executive producer behind the Starz series, was well aware of the movies. But, it was the original text that proved to be the real inspiration.

Warner says, “For me, going back to the book, I was really struck by one letter in particular, Letter 81, which is really about how Merteuil had created herself from nothing. There was a real space, a real blank page.

“She is a construct. Everything about her she has very consciously developed. And for me, I never saw that when I watched the movie. I didn’t pick it up the first time I read the book. But that really was the starting point to think, actually, there’s a huge space here to reinvent something. And that was the excitement for me to find there’s a new story to tell.”

Warner was lured to the project because the story is filled with universal themes: sex, privilege, poverty, class, love and power. She is certain the story of a woman navigating a man’s world is hugely powerful today.

It fell to Englert to bring all of that to life. Before taking on the challenge of “Dangerous Liaisons,” Englert starred in “Won’t Be Alone” which premiered at the 2022 Sundance film festival. Her other credits include Ginger & Rosa,” “Ratched” and “Top of the Lake.”

Denton – whose credits include “Holding the Man,” “Spirit of the Game,” “Glitch” and “Utopia” – credits the production team with making the love and war elements of the series work so well.

“I think that was such a beautiful thing for me as an actor going into telly for the first time to be given such a character to play with,” Denton says. “And there are so many sides to this character. I mean, he’s traumatized at points, and you’ll realize that, the origin of him.  You also realize that he’s deeply emotionally and there’s many different facets to him.

“Sure, he’s sexy and seductive at times, but he’s also a human, and I think that’s at the heart of this sort of story of the human condition and that love.”

The series doesn’t debut on the Starz streaming service until midnight Nov. 6 and on the cable channel at 8 p.m. the same day but that did not stop the executives from ordering a second season. It is expected to begin production at the beginning of 2023 in Prague, Czech Republic.

 “‘Dangerous Liaisons’ is addictive, provocative and beautifully rendered,” Kathryn Busby, President, Original Programming at STARZ, says. “This prelude to the famed 18th century novel illuminates pre-revolution Paris at its most decadent. We are confident that by the end of season one viewers will be craving more scheming and seduction.”  

The cast of “Dangerous Liaisons also include Kosar Ali as Victoire, Carice van Houten as Jacqueline de Montrachet, Hilton Pelser as Gabriel Carrè, Fisayo Akinade as Chevalier de Saint-Jacques, Michael McElhatton as Jean de Merteuil, Nathanael Saleh as Azolan, Colette Dalal Tchantcho as Ondine de Valmont, Hakeem Kae-Kazim as Majordome, Tom Wlaschiha as Henri de Montrachet and Paloma Faith as Florence de Regnier.