Kenneth Branagh To Star As Boris Johnson In COVID-19 Series

Credit: Johan Persson

There is no doubt that we are all living through one of those periods in human history that is going to form a good part of the 21st century. Through art, culture, politics, history, sociology, law, health advancements, COVID-19 and its effects will be long felt even after the virus no longer dominates our every move (fingers crossed that is soon). Already the pandemic and its fallout are being explored in TV as production once picks up once again and we have new content screening. However, to date, the majority of those are fictional and how the pandemic has impacted the characters in our favourite series. Soon we will get our first look at how the UK government has handled the crisis in Michael Winterbottom’s This Sceptred Isle.

The limited series, produced for Sky, will focus on the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic in the UK. Over five parts, the drama series will follow UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his administration as well as the scientists and health care workers as they struggle to respond to the crisis. It is based on the first-hand testimony of people from all walks of life; 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 was announced over the weekend that Kenneth Branagh has been brought on to play Johnson.

Winterbottom (Welcome to Sarajevo, 24 Hour Party People) will direct the series as well as co-writing with Kieron Quirke and co-executive producing with True Detective’s EP Richard Brown.

“The first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic will be remembered forever,” Winterbottom said in a statement. “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 [Downing Street] to front line workers around the country — chronicling the efforts of scientists, doctors, care home workers and policymakers to protect us from the virus.”

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 dramatize these extraordinary events that continue to affect us all.”

The UK has been one of the hardest countries hit by the virus, with more than 3.5 million infections and nearly 96,000 deaths recorded — the world’s fifth-highest toll. A new mutant strain of the virus originating in the UK has forced the country into its latest lockdown. This new strain is extremely virulent with findings suggesting it’s also more deadly than the original. Johnson himself was briefly hospitalised last April with the virus.

Shooting on the production is due to start early 2021, with a release due around autumn 2022.

Clare Sidoti
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