Kenneth Branagh to play Boris Johnson in Sky TV drama about Covid crisis ‘The Scepted Isle’

SIR Kenneth Branagh will star as Boris Johnson in a television drama about coronavirus.

Sky’s five-part series will focus on the Prime Minister’s handling of the pandemic.

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This Sceptred Isle was first announced last year and has now been commissioned by Sky.

The series 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.

It will chart the events surrounding the Prime Minister, the government, and the country in the face of the first wave of the global pandemic.

The five-part drama begins with Boris Johnson’s appointment as Prime Minister, before recounting from the first coronavirus cases in the UK – through to Mr Johnson falling ill with the virus, and the arrival of his son.

This Sceptred Isle will go on to trace the impact on Britain from this once in a generation pandemic, and the response of scientists, nurses, and doctors

It is based on the first-hand testimony of people inside Number 10 Downing Street, the Department of Health, The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE), and from hospitals and care homes across the country.

Mr Johnson – who has received global criticism for the UK’s handling of the pandemic – will be played by BAFTA and Emmy award-winning actor, Sir Kenneth Branagh.

60-year-old Sir Branagh, just four years senior than the Prime Minister, has starred in Valkyrie, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and Dunkirk.

He was described previously as being “just like Jeremy Corbyn” by actress Zoë Wanamaker in 2015.

Speaking to the Evening Standard, she said: “He took a lot of flak years ago, just like Jeremy Corbyn, people throwing stuff at him because he is an individual,” says Zoë Wanamaker. “I think it’s to do with envy in this country.”

Winterbottom has co-written This Sceptred Isle 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 front line workers around the country – chronicling the efforts of scientists, doctors, care home workers and policy makers to protect us from the virus".

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."

Filming is expected to begin shortly and the series will air in Autumn 2022 on Sky Atlantic and Now TV.

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