Kenneth Branagh to play Boris Johnson in TV drama about Covid crisis

Sir Kenneth Branagh will play Boris Johnson in a TV drama about the prime minister’s handling of the coronavirus.

This Sceptred Isle, which was first announced last year and has now been commissioned by Sky, will be directed by Michael Winterbottom, who will also co-write, while Tim Shipman, the political editor of the Sunday Times, will act as a consultant.

Starting with his appointment as prime minister, the five-part drama will recount the first Covid-19 cases in the UK, through to Johnson falling ill with the virus, and the arrival of his son.

The series will trace the impact on Britain from the pandemic, and the response of scientists, nurses and doctors.

It is based on the first-hand testimony of people inside No 10 Downing Street, the Department of Health, the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), and from hospitals and care homes across the country.

Winterbottom has co-written the series with Kieron Quirke, and will direct all five episodes.

He 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 frontline workers around the country – chronicling the efforts of scientists, doctors, care home workers and policymakers to protect us from the virus.”

Boris Johnson
The prime minister, Boris Johnson, addressing the nation from No 10 Downing Street as he placed the UK on lockdown to stop the spread of coronavirus on 23 March, 2020. Photograph: PA Video/PA

Global producer and distributor Fremantle has signed a first-look deal with Winterbottom and his production company Revolution Films, which will develop and produce scripted series and films, with Fremantle co-producing and distributing the projects worldwide.

The deal is done in collaboration with Richard Brown and his company, Passenger, with Brown and Melissa Parmenter from Revolution Films serving as executive producers on the political drama

Zai Bennett, managing director of content at Sky UK, 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.”

Brown 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.”

The series will begin filming in early 2021 and is expected to premiere on Sky Atlantic and Now TV in the autumn of 2022.

The Guardian

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