Sky This England: Kenneth Branagh reveals behind the scenes preparation to play role of Boris Johnson

Branagh said that despite his efforts to portray Boris Johnson, he felt responsible to ‘stay neutral’ during production.

Sir Kenneth Branagh has revealed the extensive preparation he undertook for his role as Boris Johnson in Sky’s latest drama This England in order to achieve an ”utterly convincing” appearance.

In an exclusive featurette released by Sky on Tuesday, September 27, the award-winning actor talked about how he approached the leading role of the former prime minister.

Hide Ad

This England, based on Boris Johnson’s tumultuous first months as Prime Minister, traces the impact on the country of the first wave of the Coronavirus pandemic.

Co-written and directed by Michael Winterbottom, the drama takes viewers inside the halls of power, as Johnson (Branagh) grapples with Covid-19, Brexit, and a controversial personal and political life.

Most Popular

    Ophelia Lovibond as Carrie and Kenneth Branagh as Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Picture: PA Photo/©Sky UK Ltd/Phil Fisk

    However, in order to keep true to his character, Branagh stated that he had to do thorough research on Boris from interviews done while he was in office.

    Hide Ad

    He also said that he would be among the first on the set to apply make-up, which would include the use of prosthetics that allowed his face to change.

    “Nobody really met me as Ken”

    Hide Ad

    Sir Branagh explained: “The specific approach to me playing Boris Johnson was to read everything that he had written in addition to radio programmes interviews, examples of how he dealt with difficult questions.

    “But I suppose, essentially, the goal was to try to find how he by his own hand expressed himself to the world.

    Hide Ad

    “There was a process of finding the physicality. I was part of a team led by Michael Winterbottom who had a view about how closely you should try and match the real figure.

    “We had a brilliant make-up team (who put on) the prosthetics that allow the face to change and the suit that helped build the physicality and your job was to get as close as you could and then try to be as real as you could.

    Hide Ad
    (L-R) Shri Patel as Rishi Sunak and Kenneth Branagh as Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Picture: PA Photo/©Sky UK Ltd/Phil Fisk

    “There’d be a group of us who’d be up in the morning creating Boris Johnson in the show. It took between two and three hours. We got it down as time went on but by the time I got into work nobody really met me as Ken.”

    Hide Ad

    And fellow actors agreed, praising Branagh’s portrayal of Boris Johnson.

    Andrew Buchan, who plays former Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “I’ve not met Ken. I’ve met Boris and I’m not joking and the first scene that I had with him and he’s looking at me - I was like, that’s Boris Johnson.”

    Hide Ad

    Ophelia Lovibond, who plays Boris Johnson’s wife, Carrie Symonds said: “I’ve never met Ken, I’ve only met Boris.”

    Hide Ad

    ‘Extraordinary’ performances

    This England director Julian Jarrold also praised Branagh for his role, which he described as ”extraordinary”.

    Hide Ad

    He said: “What was extraordinary about his performances and his method was the sheer amount of research and the professionalism and concentration that he put into it.”

    Branagh said that despite his efforts to portray Boris Johnson, he felt responsible to ‘stay neutral’ during production.

    Hide Ad

    He said: “I think I felt an enormous sense of responsibility and that as an actor, my job more than ever was to apply no judgement, stay neutral, be a vessel of storytelling and trust entirely the audience’s ability to make up their own mind about where everything lies.”

    This England is available to watch on Sky Atlantic and streaming service NOW from Wednesday, September 28, 2022.