PBS’s The Hollow Crown stars Who’s Who of British genre actors in Shakespeare history plays

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I’ve come to the conclusion after watching literally thousands of movies that I don’t like straight drama.  I rarely enjoy it unless there is some genre component to reel me in.  Sometimes even genre actors don’t help, such as Doctor Who’s David Tennant and Arthur Darvill in the BBC series Broadchurch.  I don’t go to movies for portrayals of real life, no matter how good the portrayal is supposed to be.  The list of exceptions to my distaste for straight drama is probably pretty large because I am pretty open minded.  The genre hook could be tenuous but it must be there.

Of course the most celebrated dramatist of all time is William Shakespeare.  I love his comedies adapted to screen, particularly Kenneth Branagh’s costume drama Much Ado About Nothing.  I also love the history plays–again, costume drama–and especially the 1990s Henry V–again, Branagh’s version.  The genre hook is easy with his histories–historical fiction.  But take that drama into the present day, such as with Joss Whedon’s 2013 Much Ado About Nothing, and I could hardly be less interested in it.  Even with a bunch of genre actors in the cast.

Whishaw as Richard II

Historical drama in the form of four of Shakespeare’s history plays adapted to screen on the BBC in 2012 begin tomorrow in the States with The Hollow Crown on PBS’s Great Performances.  And better yet, they are staged in the historical period–not contemporary updates–and as a bonus they feature a host of genre actors.

The first installment is Richard II, starring Ben Whishaw (Q from Skyfall) as King Richard II, Rory Kinnear (Tanner from Quantum of Solace/Skyfall) as Bolingbroke, Clémence Poésy (Fleur Delacour from the Harry Potter series) as Queen Isabella\Anne, David Suchet (from PBS’s Poirot) as the Duke of York, David Morrissey (Viva Blackpool, Doctor Who, The Walking Dead) as Northumberland, James Purefoy (A Knight’s Tale, The Following) as Mowbray, and last, but not least, Sir Patrick Stewart (Star Trek: TNG, X-Men) as John of Gaunt.

Hiddleston Hollow Crown

September 27, 2013 is Henry IV, Part 1, starring Jeremy Irons (Die Hard with a Vengeance, The Man in the Iron Mask) as King Henry IV, Tom Hiddleston (Thor, The Avengers, Muppets Most Wanted) as Prince Hal, Simon Russell Beale (MI-5) as Falstaff, Julie Walters (Harry Potter series) as Mistress Quickly, Alun Armstrong (Krull, Braveheart, Underworld, Bleak House, Van Helsing) as Northumberland, and Joe Armstrong (Robin Hood, Viva Blackpool) as Hotspur.  This is continued with Henry IV part 2 on October 4, 2013, with the same players.

The culmination of the series is Henry V on October 11, 2013, starring Tom Hiddleston as King Henry V, the late Richard Griffiths (the Harry Potter series) as Duke of Burgundy, Julie Walters as Mistress Quickly, John Hurt (Doctor Who, the Harry Potter series, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, V for Vendetta, The Skeleton Key, Hellboy, Contact, Spaceballs) as The Chorus, Lambert Wilson (Timeline, The Matrix Reloaded) as the French King, Geraldine Chaplin (Doctor Zhivago) as Alice, and Edward Akrout (The Borgias) as Louis the Dauphin.

Check out this preview with Tom Hiddleston:

Tune-in tomorrow night for The Hollow Crown on PBS.

C.J. Bunce

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