Kenneth Branagh has lined up his next big acting challenge: Transform into UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and play the political figure for a new television show. Branagh has been keeping us on our toes recently with a variety of attention-grabbing projects (for better and for worse). Back in June 2020, the Branagh-directed YA feature Artemis Fowl was finally released on Disney+ to mixed-to-negative reviews. Then, just a few months later, he starred opposite John David Washington and Robert Pattinson in Christopher Nolan‘s Tenet. This year is set to be an equally intriguing year with the release of Death on the Nile, the Branagh-directed (and starring) follow-up to 2017’s Murder on the Orient Express, in September.
According to Deadline, Branagh will indeed step into the large shoes of Johnson, Britain’s current PM, for a new, five-part television drama directed by Michael Winterbottom (of The Trip franchise fame). The limited series will be called This Sceptred Isle, an august title which sounds about right when Branagh is the face of it but might cause an eyebrow or two to raise considering it will focus on the frequently baffling and frustrating Johnson. Per Deadline, This Sceptred Isle “will trace the impact [of the COVID-19 pandemic] on Britain, the response of scientists, nurses, and doctors 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.”
What interests me most about this project is what kind of tone and/or genre This Sceptred Isle will take on. Branagh and Winterbottom‘s careers, which respectively span decades, indicate they are skilled enough to navigate any tone or genre set down before them. Branagh is a chameleonic actor, one who seems to enjoy tackling complex, moody, and occasionally patrician roles. If This Sceptred Isle were to be a more serious affair, it’s not hard at all to see Branagh rising to the occasion. Similarly, if Branagh‘s time in Murder on the Orient Express or, say, Wild Wild West tells us anything, it’s that he is someone who enjoys going big — something Winterbottom could use to his advantage based on his direction of The Trip movies.
This Sceptred Isle emerges from a deal between Winterbottom and Fremantle’s Passenger, run by producer Richard Brown (True Detective). Winterbotton and Brown will serve as executive producers. And, as if he wasn’t tied up enough in this intriguing project, Winterbottom will co-write This Sceptred Isle with Kieron Quirke (Cuckoo, Defending the Guilty). No further casting announcements outside of Branagh‘s have been announced at this time.
Filming on This Sceptred Isle is set to begin in early 2021, with a premiere date set for fall 2022.