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29 October 2014
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Jonny Lee Miller set to play Byron as BBC announces ambitious slate of historical dramas and period adaptations for BBC ONE and TWO

BBC ONE has just greenlit a four-part serial about the life of King Charles II, whilst Jonny Lee Miller is attached to play Byron in a major two-part drama about the poet's life for BBC TWO, it was announced by BBC Controller of Drama Commissioning Jane Tranter today.

The focus of King Charles II is his court, his squabbling family and his glamorous mistresses - from the high-born and promiscuous Barbara Villiers through folk heroine and sex symbol of the day Nell Gwynne to the French spy Louise de Keroualle.

It is an original take on a historical period written by award-winning screenwriter Adrian Hodges, whose credits include David Copperfield and The Lost World, which penetrates to the heart of the charismatic monarch who was deeply traumatised by the execution of his father.

Byron is written by Nick Dear, whose credits include the award-winning adaptation of Jane Austen's Persuasion, and is to be directed by Julian Farino (Flesh And Blood, Our Mutual Friend, Bob And Rose).

With Jonny Lee Miller attached but not contracted to play the title role, the two-part drama portrays the wildy excessive Lord Byron as the ultimate rebel whose overnight success brought him instant celebrity status.

Lady Caroline Lamb, the most bitter of his jilted lovers, described him as "Mad, bad and dangerous to know".

It explores not just his sexual excesses, but who he was, what he was looking for in his life, and how he became such a radical icon.

"These are ambitious and original historical dramas for BBC ONE and TWO," said Jane Tranter.

"King Charles II is a dynamic romp through history - racy, visceral and violent - set in the corridors and bedrooms of power, when the conflict between monarch and state was at a crossroads.

"Byron aims to take a non-traditionalist approach to period drama, so that it won't feel like a 'classic'.

"It will focus on Byron's energy and his desire to turn convention upside down, and isn't so much interested in the minutiae of period detail.

"It will also emphasise such contemporary themes as celebrity, media manipulation and the bad boy image of an outsider who wins - but despises - society's praise."

In addition, two family films of classic children's tales have been commissioned for BBC ONE.

Jim Broadbent is attached to star as Alfred Salteena in Daisy Ashford's The Young Visiters [sic], which has been adapted by Patrick Barlow; and Pauline Quirke is to star in an adaptation of Nina Bawden's novel, Carrie's War, which tells the story of London evacuees in Wales during the Second World War.

Two further adaptations are in advanced development.

He Knew He Was Right, scripted by Andrew Davies from the novel by Anthony Trollope for BBC ONE, is an astonishing dissection of the psychology of an imploding marriage, and how jealousy drives a wedge through a glittering, glamorous young couple who seem to have it all.

Davies brings to it the same startlingly modern resonance which he brought to the world of business in The Way We Live Now.

The dark and thrilling central story is contrasted with a cast of eccentric characters and strong sub-plots which provide great wit and warmth.

To The Ends Of The Earth is a hugely ambitious event - a major three-part adaptation by Leigh Jackson of William Golding's sea trilogy comprising Rites of Passage, Close Quarters and Fire Down Below.

A modern masterpiece by one of the greatest novelists of the 20th century, To The Ends Of The Earth is set during the early 19th century, and follows a young aristocrat on a voyage of discovery from England to Australia.

Leigh Jackson's credits include BBC ONE's forthcoming political drama The Project, and the award-winning Warriors, about British UN peace-keepers in Bosnia.

Notes to Editors

Previously announced historical and period dramas coming to BBC Television include...

The Other Boleyn Girl takes a fresh look at history with the story of Mary Boleyn, who was mistress to Henry VIII before he married her sister Anne, and stars Natascha McElhone, Jodhi May and Jared Harris.

Cambridge Spies is a fresh take on the Cambridge spy ring written by Peter Moffat for BBC TWO, which is now filming.

Both are in currently in post-production for BBC TWO.

The Hound of the Baskervilles is a modern realisation of a timeless and popular classic, which stars Richard Roxburgh and Ian Hart as Holmes and Watson, and is to be shown later this year on BBC ONE.

Servants is a bold and irreverent new series by Lucy Gannon, currently in production for BBC ONE, set largely below stairs in an English country house in the 1850s England.

It focuses on the hopes, dreams and ambitions of the servants who make a great household work.

Stephen Poliakoff's much-anticipated The Lost Prince, a major two-part drama to be shown on BBC ONE next year, tells the little-known story of Edwardian royal, Prince John, the youngest child of George V and Queen Mary, whose short life spanned one of the most momentous periods in history - the political build-up to the First World War and the machinations of European royalty in the early part of the 20th century.

It stars Miranda Richardson, Michael Gambon and Gina McKee.



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