Award-winning actor Kenneth Branagh is set to play Boris Johnson in TV series – Branagh will take on the role of the United Kingdom Prime Minister in a 5-part series entitled “This Sceptred Isle.” The drama miniseries will focus on the UK’s poor handling of the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic. Johnson contracted the virus in late March and had to be hospitalized for more than a week, and he even spent a couple of days in intensive care.
The limited series is expected to start filming this year and air on Sky Atlantic by fall 2022. “This Sceptred Isle” will be written and directed by Michael Winterbottom (“The Trip”). When the show was first announced in June last year, the project struggled to find a broadcasting partner as well as announce the casting. Nevertheless, the show had already generated hype, making national headlines in the summer, with many speculating as to who would play Boris Johnson. Among the fan favorites were comedian and “The Great British Bake Off” host Matt Lucas because of his viral videos parodying the prime minister’s confused messaging regarding the pandemic.
About the upcoming series, Winterbottom said: “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.”
According to Variety, the show promises to “tell the tale of some of the most devastating events to ever befall the United Kingdom, and of a Prime Minister leading in these unprecedented times.” The series is expected to portray the impact COVID-19 has had on the UK, from the country’s response from the medical community to members from the government, Department of Health, the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) and local citizens.
Winterbottom has co-written all five episodes with Kieron Quirke and will direct all five episodes as well. He is also expected to serve as executive producer together with Richard Brown. Other executive producers include Melissa Parmenter from Revolution Films, who will co-produce the show with Josh Hyams and Anthony Wilcox. Political editor of The Sunday Times, Tim Shipman will act as a consultant for the series.
The show was commissioned by Sky UK’s managing director of content, Zai Bennett. Speaking about the series, Bennett said: “COVID-19 has presented once-in-a-generation challenges to the world, and in the UK the resilience and fortitude of the public over the past year has been nothing short of extraordinary. Portraying NHS staff and key workers on the frontlines of the extraordinary fight, to those in government facing unprecedented challenges, Michael Winterbottom has a clear and compelling vision in telling this remarkable story. The incredible creative talent Fremantle have assembled including the central performance from Kenneth Branagh will make ‘This Sceptred Isle’ a drama we are proud to be part of telling.”
Executive producer Richard Brown also added: “Michael is a master of weaving compelling drama from factual stories and he has an undeniable, distinct vision for this project. He and Kieron have written remarkable and meticulously researched scripts which powerfully dramatise these extraordinary events that continue to affect us all.”
Winterbottom’s previous dramas include “Welcome to Sarajevo,” “A Mighty Heart,” “24 Hour Party People” and “The Road to Guantanamo.” Kenneth Branagh was last seen in Christopher Nolan’s movie “Tenet,” in which he portrayed the villainous role of Russian oligarch Andrei Sator. He is also expected to feature in the upcoming film “Death on the Nile,” which is also directed by the 56-year-old actor.
Although the series is showcasing the UK’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, the country is currently in its third national lockdown. The total death toll so far in the UK is 98,531.
“This Sceptred Isle” will begin airing on Sky Atlantic from Fall 2022 across all Sky territories (Germany, UK, Italy, Austria and Ireland).
Have a tip or story? Get in touch with our reporters at [email protected]