Kenneth Branagh

This Sceptred Isle: Kenneth Branagh will play Boris Johnson in Sky’s new coronavirus drama, and people have thoughts

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Yep, you read that right. Sir Kenneth Branagh has been cast as Prime Minister Boris Johnson in Sky Atlantic’s new coronavirus drama This Sceptred Isle. Here’s what we know so far.

We may still be in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, but that doesn’t mean we’ll have to wait long to see the reality of the virus played out on our screens.

We’ve already been given a glimpse of one such project in the form of Songbird, which takes the coronavirus pandemic four years into the future and imagines what would happen if the virus were to mutate multiple times. The trailer – which was released at the end of October last year – is uncomfortable viewing, and hits pretty close to home at a time when a virus mutation has led to a third national lockdown

However, Songbird isn’t the only Covid-19-inspired title set to make its way to our screens. We now know Sky have a coronavirus drama in the works, which will chart events in the UK during the first wave of the pandemic. 

The five-part series, called This Sceptred Isle, will take a closer look at the efforts of scientists, politicians and frontline workers to contain the virus during the first few months of the outbreak. This includes the actions of Prime Minister Boris Johnson – who will be played by none other than Sir Kenneth Branagh.

The official synopsis reads: “This Sceptred Isle will tell the tale of some of the most devastating events to ever befall the United Kingdom, and of a prime minister leading in these unprecedented times. The drama will trace the impact on Britain from this once in a generation pandemic, and the response of scientists, nurses, and doctors as they worked tirelessly and heroically to contain and overcome the virus.”

Boris Johnson
This Sceptred Isle will look at the UK's coronavirus response during the first wave, including the actions of Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

It continues: “It is based on the first-hand testimony of people from all walks of life; from Number 10 Downing Street, the Department of Health, The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE), and from hospitals and care homes across the country.”

Unsurprisingly, people on Twitter had mixed reactions to the announcement. While some were simply bemused by the fact that Branagh would be playing Johnson (as we all are), others were quick to question whether the series is too much, too soon – especially at a time when the official death count is nearing 100,000.

“Kenneth Branagh to play Boris Johnson in a TV drama about the Covid Crisis whilst we are in the midst of the Covid Crisis, featuring Boris Johnson, seems rather redundant,” wrote one Twitter user. “In the past, performers attempted to raise public spirits during times of hardship, not remind them of it.”

“Like, why?” added another. “Who asked for this? We’ve lived it, we don’t need to give it anymore airtime! Also… Kenneth Branagh?! If this is what entertainment is going to be I’ll make my own fun!”

“I’m not watching a series about the pandemic during the pandemic. You wouldn’t go to a shark attack ward and screen Jaws,” a third response pointed out.

While another simply added: “I love Kenneth Branagh. I do not love this concept.”

With the series set to be released in autumn 2022, we still have quite a while to wait before This Sceptred Isle hits our screens. But for now, it seems the last thing anyone wants is to be reminded of the last year’s events – and who can blame us?

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Lauren Geall

As Stylist’s digital writer, Lauren Geall writes on topics including mental health, wellbeing and work. She’s also a big fan of houseplants and likes to dabble in film and TV from time-to-time.