Kenneth Branagh to Play Boris Johnson in Five-part Series About the Pandemic
Whatsonstage.com, 23 January 2021
Veteran stage performer and director Kenneth Branagh will take on the role of Boris Johnson in a new five-part series, 'This Sceptred Isle'.
The series will explore Johnson's first six months in office as the pandemic erupts on British shores – a period when legions of doctors, nurses and front-line workers sacrificed their time, health and often lives to help treat those affected by Covid with their efforts often widely underreported in the media.
'This Sceptred Isle' is said to be based on first-hand testimonials of those working in Downing Street, in SAGE, in the Department of Health, in hospitals and care homes.
Michael Winterbottom has co-written the series with Kieron Quirke, and will direct all five episodes. Tim Shipman, political editor of The Sunday Times, will act as a consultant on the series. Winterbottom said today: "The first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic will be remembered forever. A time when the country came together to battle an invisible enemy. A time when people were more aware than ever of the importance of community. Our series weaves together countless true stories - from Boris Johnson in Number 10 to front line workers around the country - chronicling the efforts of scientists, doctors, care home workers and policy makers to protect us from the virus".
Winterbottom has a strong track record with dramas grounded in facts – winning awards for films like 'Welcome to Sarajevo', 'A Mighty Heart', '24 Hour Party People' and 'The Road to Guantanamo'.
The title takes its name from John of Gaunt's famous speech from Shakespeare's 'Richard II'. Johnson has been depicted on stage a plethora of times – including the recent 'The Last Temptation of Boris Johnson' at the Park Theatre. The show had its planned tour disrupted by the pandemic.
The series is expected to be released in autumn 2022, and will begin shooting soon. It will air on Sky Atlantic and streaming service NOW TV, being produced by Fremantle, Richard Brown's Passenger and Michael Winterbottom's Revolution Films.
Award-winning performer Branagh has appeared in the likes of 'The Entertainer', 'Romeo and Juliet' and 'The Winter's Tale'. He directed Tom Hiddleston in a production of 'Hamlet' at RADA.