The shock of blond hair is tamer than we have seen of late, but this is unmistakable Boris Johnson, as portrayed by Sir Kenneth Branagh.
Branagh’s transformation into a hunched and haunted-looking Johnson for an upcoming drama series about the coronavirus pandemic has been revealed for the first time by Sky.
This Sceptred Isle will air on Sky Atlantic and Now TV next year, chronicling the impact of the first wave of the global pandemic, from the government’s response through to the crucial work in hospitals and care homes.
The five-episodes series is said to be based on first-hand testimony from those at the heart of the crisis, including individuals from No 10 Downing Street, the Department for Health, the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE), as well as from hospitals and care homes.
Branagh is the latest high-profile actor to take on the challenge of portraying a UK prime minister, following Gillian Anderson as Margaret Thatcher in The Crown, Michael Sheen as Tony Blair in the trilogy The Deal, The Queen and The Special Relationship – which earned both Bafta and Emmy nominations – and Gary Oldman’s award-winning performance as Winston Churchill in Darkest Hour.
Branagh has risen before to the challenge of physical transformation, deploying a prosthetics nose to play William Shakespeare in All is True, and a dramatic moustache to portray Hercule Poirot in Agatha Christie’s Death on the Nile.
Capturing Johnson’s unruly mop, however, will be a tonsorial challenge in itself, with the photograph released by Sky showing a rather tidily coiffured prime minister in contrast to that witnessed during the latest lockdown.
Co-written by Michael Winterbottom, who wrote The Trip and Greed, and Kieron Quirke, who created Defending the Guilty, there is no word yet on who will star alongside Branagh.
“The first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic will be remembered forever,” said Winterbottom. “A time when the country came together to battle and 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 No 10 to frontline workers around the country – chronicling the efforts of scientists, doctors, care home workers and policymakers to protect us”.
The series will premiere in autumn 2022.