The Hollow Crown, a lavish new series of filmed adaptations of Shakespeare’s second history tetralogy (but first chronologically)—Richard II, Henry IV, Part One and Part Two, and Henry V—will air as the season premier of Great Performances on PBS beginning Sept. 20 and broadcasting each successive Friday at 9 p.m. (check local listings).
Executive produced by Sam Mendes and Pippa Harris, the series of cinema-quality films features Patrick Stewart, Jeremy Irons, Tom Hiddleston, Ben Whishaw, John Hurt, Rory Kinnear, Simon Russell Beale, Michelle Dockery, Julie Walters, David Suchet, and Lambert Wilson.
This marks the first time these four plays have been seen on PBS since the epic BBC/Time-Life Shakespeare Plays series was presented in the early 1980s. Scenes of these productions appeared in the Shakespeare Uncovered series that aired on PBS earlier this year.
Rupert Goold directed Richard II, airing Sept. 20, with Wishaw as Richard, Stewart as John of Gaunt, Suchet as the Duke of York, David Morrissey as Northumberland, Sand James Purefoy as Thomas Mowbray. Kinnear plays the part of Bolingbroke, but he gives way to Irons in the follow-on plays, the two parts of Henry IV.
Richard Eyre directed both parts, with Hiddleston playing Prince Hal and Beale playing Falstaff. Walters takes on Mistress Quickly, and Dockery plays Lady Hotspur, while Joe Armstrong plays Hotspur and real-life father Alun Armstrong plays historical father Northumberland. Henry IV, Part I, airs Sept. 27, and Henry IV, Part II, broadcasts on Oct. 4.
Thea Sharrock directs the final installment, airing Oct. 11, with Hiddleston continuing in the title role, Hurt playing Chorus, and Wilson portraying King Charles of France. Jérémie Covillault plays the French ambassador, Anton Lesser plays Exeter, and Paterson Joseph is York. In one of his final roles, Richard Griffiths plays Burgundy.
The plays were filmed on location in England between Summer 2011 and Spring 2012 and are all set in their authentic medieval period. After the series premiered in the U.K. last year, it was honored with BAFTA Television Awards for Whishaw (Leading Actor) and Beale (Supporting Actor), BAFTA Craft Awards for Original Television Music (Stephen Warbeck) and Sound for Richard II. Richard II also won an RTS Programme Award for Single Drama.
“The Hollow Crown shows the trials and tribulations and the murderous backdrop behind our own history," Pippa Harris said in a press release. "Whilst these four plays collectively say so much about Britain, the global appeal of Shakespeare is never-ending. Our phenomenal cast and crew have brought a vivid and inspirational edge to Shakespeare for a worldwide audience.”
NBCUniversal International also receives production credit. “This is an exciting new cycle of Shakespeare history plays, with stunning performances by a range of wonderful actors," the release quotes Downton Abbey Producer Gareth Neame, executive producer for NBCUniversal International. "NBCUniversal International is delighted to have been a part of bringing these ambitious productions to the screen.”
August 25, 2013