Kenneth Branagh just got done playing an evil villain in Christopher Nolan‘s Tenet, now he’s jumping into a totally different role…or maybe not. Branagh will portray UK Prime Minster Boris Johnson in a new five-part TV drama from Michael Winterbottom, which will chronicle the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Britain.
The series is titled This Sceptred Isle, and will focus on the response of scientists, nurses, and doctors to the pandemic, as they worked to contain and overcome the virus. It is based on the first-hand testimony of people including those from Number 10 Downing Street, the Department of Health, The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE), and from hospitals and care homes across the country.
It’s unclear what sort of tone the show will take. One could easily see it being uber-serious, with Branagh harnessing his Shakespeare experience to portray Johnson – somehow Shakespeare + Boris Johnson doesn’t really mix – but it could also go the other way, with Winterbottom taking lessons from The Trip movies he helmed and going with a more farcical approach.
Winterbottom will co-write the series with Kieron Quirke (Defending The Guilty), and the show will be produced by Fremantle’s Passenger, a production company run by Richard Brown (True Detective).
Branagh had an odd 2020, first directing the disastrous Artemis Fowl for Disney+ before his big role in the aforementioned Tenet. He’s also got Death On The Nile – the sequel to 2017’s Murder On The Orient Express that he’ll both direct and star in – lined up for this year.
This Sceptred Isle – a title change will surely be at least considered at some point, right? – is scheduled to go behind the cameras early this year, with an autumn 2022 premiere date announced. Hopefully by then this pandemic will be a distant memory, but only to those who survived it.