Kenneth Branagh and Boris Johnson.
Gulf Today Report
Last year, actor Kenneth Branagh was slammed for his directorial venture Artemis Fowl, for releasing it during the pandemic. Now he faces flak again, for featuring in a TV series on Boris Johnson, set against the backdrop of the coronavirus.
Sky television has announced plans to make a drama series about the UK's battle with the coronavirus starring Kenneth Branagh in the role of Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
The series called "This Sceptred Isle" will show the "Prime Minister, the government and the country in the face of the first wave of the global pandemic," Sky said on Saturday.
Filming of the five-part show will start early this year and it is set to air on Sky Atlantic next year. Sky said it will be based on first-person accounts of events, according to news agencies.
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," according to 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" and recently playing 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 television series including "The Trip," starring British comedians Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon.
The director said he would focus on "the efforts of scientists, doctors, care home workers and policy-makers to protect us from the virus."
Johnson's term in office during the pandemic saw him dramatically 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, particularly his handling of the coronavirus crisis, have been widely criticised, with Britain's number of cases and deaths now the highest in Europe.
However, after news of the project broke, many voiced their objection to its premise on social media,calling it "inappropriate" to produce while the pandemic was still ongoing.
Far too soon,” wrote one Twitter user. “People are still placing headstones from the first wave. Please don’t release this.”
This Sceptred Isle, an original drama created for Sky, will be based on testimony from real people living through the pandemic, including hospital and care home workers.
However, after news of the project broke, many voiced their objection to its premise on social media, calling it “inappropriate” to produce while the pandemic was still ongoing.
“I really wish they would stop dramatising contemporary political events,” wrote another.
“People are having enough of a hard time distinguishing truth from fiction as it is. This stuff helps not one bit.”
“When thousands of people are still dying, and many are still grieving thousands that died last year it seems inappropriate and frankly f***ing sick of Sky to be making drama about Covid, with Kenneth Branagh playing @BorisJohnson,” wrote someone else.
Critics say Johnson was too slow to roll out measures such as rules on mask-wearing and virus tests for arriving travellers that other countries imposed much earlier.
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 last year after he refused to apologise for taking a lengthy road trip while ill with COVID-19 during the first national lockdown.
Johnson, who will address parliament at around 1430 GMT, was fined last week by the police for attending a birthday party thrown in his honour in June 2020 when people from different households were not allowed to meet indoors.
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