Sir Kenneth Branagh set to star as Boris Johnson in new series chronicling the COVID-19 pandemic

UK PM Boris Johnson.
UK PM Boris Johnson. Photo credit: Getty

Award-winning actor Sir Kenneth Branagh is set to portray British Prime Minister Boris Johnson in a five-part series chronicling the beginnings of the COVID-19 crisis.

This Sceptred Isle will chart the terrifying events that marked the first wave of the ongoing pandemic, which has infected almost 100 million people worldwide. 

Johnson, 56, has faced intense scrutiny for his handling of the health crisis, which was officially declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization in March last year. COVID-19 has particularly ravaged the UK, a country dragged through a series of restrictive lockdowns in a desperate bid to curb transmission. 

The Prime Minister has been slated for the government's slow response to the pandemic and subsequent failure to control the outbreak, which has killed almost 96,000 and continues to infect Britons at an alarming rate, with a mutated, more contagious strain of the virus now exacerbating case numbers.

This Sceptred Isle will primarily focus on the response of politicians and essential workers as the pandemic snowballed last year, according to local media. The Sky Atlantic series will be based on first-hand testimonies from 10 Downing Street - the headquarters of the UK Government - the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE), the Department of Health, and Britain's healthcare workers.

Sir Kenneth Branagh.
Sir Kenneth Branagh. Photo credit: Reuters

"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 policymakers to protect us from the virus," writer Michael Winterbottom told iTalk Telly.

Branagh, 60, is best known for starring in big-screen adaptations of the works of William Shakespeare, including Much Ado About Nothing, Othello, and Hamlet throughout the 1990s. He also portrayed Gilderoy Lockhart in the second installment of the Harry Potter franchise, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, and has appeared in films such as Dunkirk, Murder on the Orient Express, and My Week with Marilyn, his performance in which garnered him an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor. 

Earlier this year, Branagh starred in the Christopher Nolan epic, Tenet, and will next appear in the star-studded Death On The Nile, slated for release in September following multiple delays. 

Britain remains in the grips of a third lockdown, grinding day-to-day life to a halt with widespread closures and restrictions. A vaccination campaign is currently being rolled out to the country's most vulnerable, however, the latest statistics paint a grim picture, with 1348 new deaths recorded on Saturday (local time) and 33,552 new cases.