If you thought Kenneth Branagh was heading back to make-up to shoot scenes as a belligerent Boris Johnson fighting for his premiership against a government uprising, think again.
Sources tell Variety that the highly anticipated Sky drama series “This England” won’t be filming any more scenes despite the last chaotic 48 hours for U.K. government, which have culminated in Johnson’s resignation. That’s because the show, perhaps wisely, only covers the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, when Johnson — not even eight months into his leadership — struggled to get a grip on the health crisis and was even hospitalized with COVID-19 himself.
The drama — which is helmed by “The Trip” creator Michael Winterbottom — is currently in post-production. While an air date hasn’t yet been set, it’s still on track to premiere in the autumn, as was the original plan when Branagh was first cast as Johnson in January 2021. This means it’s likely a new prime minister will be in place by the time the show actually comes to air.
The limited drama was originally called “This Sceptred Isle” but was renamed as “This England” earlier this year.
Sky Atlantic released a first clip from the show back in May. The teaser shows a remarkably convincing Branagh spitting out Johnson-esque lines such as “This Covid virus we need to keep an eye on.” From the trailer, it’s clear that the drama captures a very specific time period for Johnson as PM.
“The first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic will be remembered forever,” said Winterbottom of the show in January 2021. “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.”
Winterbottom was forced to leave the production due to illness for a number of months in 2021, but later returned. “This England” is produced by Fremantle, Richard Brown’s Passenger and Revolution Films.
Johnson on Thursday afternoon resigned as PM following a revolt among his Conservative government and more than 50 resignations in less than two days.
In a speech at 10 Downing Street addressing the nation, Johnson said the reason he “fought so hard” to remain as PM was because “I felt it was my job, my duty, my obligation to you to continue what we promised in 2019.” He listed among his accomplishments “getting Brexit done,” “getting us all through the pandemic,” “delivering the fastest vaccine rollout in Europe” and “leading the West in standing up to Putin’s aggression in Ukraine.”
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