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Boris Johnson has been widely criticised for his handling of the COVID crisis. Image: Tolga Akmen/Pool/AFP

Kenneth Branagh to play Boris Johnson in new UK pandemic TV drama

Britain’s Sky television has announced plans to make a drama series about the country’s battle with the Coronavirus, with the Irish actor in the role of prime minister.

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Boris Johnson has been widely criticised for his handling of the COVID crisis. Image: Tolga Akmen/Pool/AFP

The series with Kenneth Branagh will be called This Sceptred Isle. It would the “prime minister, the government and the country in the face of the first wave of the global pandemic”, Sky said.

Filming of the five-part show will start soon and it is set to air on Sky Atlantic in 2022. Sky said on Saturday it would will be based on first-person accounts of events.

The casting of Branagh caught attention, with The Sunday Telegraph featuring a photo of Branagh on its front page, headlined: “Meet our new prime minister”.

Pandemic drama to star Kenneth Branagh

Kenneth Branagh will play Boris Johnson in the TV drama about the pandemic. Image: Dominik Bindl/Getty Images via AFP

The 60-year-old has had a wide-ranging career, directing and starring in Shakespearean dramas and Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express. He recently played the Russian villain in Christopher Nolan’s Tenet

The series will be directed by Michael Winterbottom, acclaimed for films such as A Cock and Bull Story and series including The Trip, starring British comedians Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon.

Winterbottom said he would focus on “the efforts of scientists, doctors, care home workers and policy makers to protect us from the virus”.

Boris Johnson had his own pandemic drama

Johnson’s term in office during the pandemic saw him rushed to hospital and placed in intensive care with the virus. His baby son was born two days after he returned to work. 

His policies have been widely criticised, with Britain’s numbers of cases and deaths now the highest in Europe. 

Critics say he was too slow to roll out measures like rules on mask-wearing and virus tests for arriving travellers that other countries imposed much earlier.

Johnson’s policies explored in another TV show

The topical political drama is not the first to focus on Johnson’s policies.

It comes after Britain’s Channel 4 in 2019 aired a show called Brexit: The Uncivil War with Sherlock star Benedict Cumberbatch playing Dominic Cummings, the strategist behind the “Vote Leave” campaign.

Cummings came under strong criticism in 2020 after he refused to apologise for taking a lengthy road trip while ill with COVID-19 during the first national lockdown.

© Agence France-Presse