Kenneth Branagh’s depiction of Boris Johnson has been revealed in a clip from the upcoming drama series This England, which follows the prime minister’s tumultuous first months in Downing Street as he grapples with the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic.
The series, formerly known as This Sceptred Isle, is co-written and directed by Michael Winterbottom and is due to air on Sky Atlantic later this year.
“The drama takes us inside the halls of power as Johnson (Branagh) grapples with Covid-19, Brexi, and a controversial personal and political life,” Sky said.
“The events in government are interwoven with stories from around the UK, from the experts and scientists racing against time to understand the virus; the doctors, nurses and care-home workers on the frontline working tirelessly and heroically to contain and overcome it; and ordinary people whose lives were thrown into turmoil.”
The teaser, released on Wednesday, opens with a jubilant voiceover by Branagh, 61, as the prime minister, detto: “A new dawn is breaking, 2020 will be a year of prosperity.”
The tone of the video shifts as Johnson’s concern for the pandemic appears to grow. “This Covid virus we need to keep an eye on," lui dice.
A montage of clips of No 10 follows as the pandemic escalates, with the voiceover: “500,000 deaths, that is a worst-case scenario”.
An eerie soundtrack plays as the familiar rhetoric to “wash your hands” and “stay at home” plays alongside images of the prime minister hosting press conferences at Downing Street. The pressure on the prime minister appears to mount as Branagh’s Johnson says: “Isn’t it someone’s actual job to give me a heads-up?"
The teaser closes with an image of the door of No 10 shutting and a radio announcer saying: “The United Kingdom has overtaken Italy to report the highest official death toll.”
Ophelia Lovibond, known for her roles in the BBC sitcom W1A and the film Guardians of the Galaxy, will portray Carrie Symonds, who was to become the prime minister’s wife. Symonds gave birth to the couple’s first child in April 2020, shortly after Johnson was admitted to an intensive care unit with Covid.
The Broadchurch star Andrew Buchan will portray the former health secretary Matt Hancock, who later resigned from his post after video was leaked showing him kissing his aide Gina Coladangelo in his ministerial office – in breach of his own Covid rules.
The series will trace the impact of the pandemic on Britain and the response of scientists, nurses and doctors.
It is based on first-hand evidence from people inside Downing Street, the Department of Health, the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies , and from hospitals and care homes. Tim Shipman, chief political commentator of the Sunday Times, is a consultant on the series.
Branagh took the award for best original screenplay for Belfast, his autobiographical coming-of-age film set at the start of the Troubles, at this year’s Academy Awards.