II – The Power & The Passion
Sunday 16 November, 9.00pm, BBC ONE
II – The Power & The Passion is set in the corridors and
bedrooms of power, and takes place during a pivotal moment in our
history, when the conflict between monarch and state is at a crossroads,"
says Jane Tranter, BBC Controller of Drama Commissioning.
"Charles is charming, devious and manipulative by turns, and
he presides over an extended, dysfunctional family like a modern
patriarch. He has no one to trust – even his best friend,
Buckingham, betrays him – and his relationship with Parliament
is stretched to breaking-point. He rules by instinct and his instinct
is to survive."
Sewell stars as the King in this ambitious and original
take on the reign of Charles II.
The focus of Charles II is the King's Court, his squabbling family
and his glamorous mistresses – from the high-born and promiscuous
Barbara Villiers (Helen McCrory), through folk
heroine and sex symbol of the day Nell Gwynn (Emma Pierson),
to the French spy Louise de Kéroualle (Mélanie
by award-winning screenwriter Adrian Hodges, whose credits include
David Copperfield and The Lost World, the four-part drama penetrates
the heart of the charismatic Monarch who was deeply traumatised
by the execution of his father by Oliver Cromwell in 1649.
cast also includes: Diana Rigg as Henrietta Maria,
Charles's volatile, unforgiving mother; Rupert Graves
as his closest friend and rival, the Duke of Buckingham; Martin
Freeman as Lord Shaftesbury, one of Charles's most contentious
ministers; Ian McDiarmid as the elder statesman
Sir Edward Hyde; Charlie Creed-Miles as James,
Charles's brother; and Alice Patten, who plays
the demure Lady Frances Stewart, the young virgin who manages to
escape Charles's sexual advances.
found the story of Charles II an incredibly colourful, sexy and
lively period of history," says Hodges.
themes of power, compromise, passion and betrayal run strongly through
a period that feels astonishingly contemporary to me, and that's
one of the reasons why I found it so compelling. None of the issues
that preoccupied him seem distant, and many of them have a disturbingly
Kate Harwood says: "The return of Charles II restored the Crown
in 1660. This moment was a fulcrum of English history: it was the
end of a certain kind of monarchy and the birth of a new one."
known as the "Merry Monarch", Charles made the most of
being King of England. He surrounded himself with witty courtiers
and kept many beautiful mistresses.
extravagance of his reign was born of his penniless and powerless
years in exile after his father's execution.
lived through the most appalling experiences while still barely
more than a child. He lost his father to the executioner, he was
very nearly captured and killed himself, and he was the victim of
vicious political intrigue," continues Hodges.
all went to make him a much more complex and fascinating character
than the traditional view of the witty, womanising monarch. He was
those things but he had a much darker side as well. He understood
the true cost of power and what its pursuit does to people.
II was an exceptionally clever man, a serious thinker, a devious
politician, a considerate husband but also a serial adulterer; a
man who was remarkably tolerant of religious differences –
it was a frighteningly bigoted age in that respect," says Hodges.
was these contradictions that I found so fascinating and which make
him a hero or an anti-hero, depending on which way you want to look
Charles's triumphant return, he found a nation torn apart by years
of bloody civil war and dulled by the repressions of a Puritan Regime.
the first few years, the glamour of King and Court rejuvenated the
nation, but his popularity waned and the Great Plague of 1665 and
the Fire of London in 1666 tore into people's morale.
period is known not just for the sex and bawdiness, but also for
the intrigue of a highly politicised court, for the vividness of
its leading characters and, importantly, for being a hugely pivotal
moment in our nation's story. We wanted to make a drama out of that
history," says Harwood.
I have used the historical background as carefully as I can, I am
not claiming that this is exactly how things were," adds Hodges.
reinventing a period of history there are certain short cuts that
have to be taken, characters lost or changed, chronology adapted.
The story is a drama first and foremost. I have taken certain liberties
to make it work because I am a dramatic writer, not a historian."
Joe Wright says: "I wanted to create something that was accessible
to everyone and something which had personal, emotional resonances
for the audience at whatever age they are and wherever they come
me, the story is about the struggle between being a good and decent
man and being a king. We see the world through Charles's eyes and
feel his emotions with him," continues Wright.
is not a heroic character who never does anything wrong, he is flawed.
He's human and that's what's important."
Mackie, executive producer, says: "Charles II has been directed
with real verve, energy and attack, so that you feel that you're
part of that Court.
think Joe is an incredibly emotional director and that's why there
is this intensity and a sense of being there that you wouldn't get
with some other directors.
Joe had never done a piece like this before, he had no preconceptions.
We have something which is beautiful and modern without trying to
look modern – a piece which is seeped in detail and looks
II was shot in the Czech Republic on location and in the studio.
Seven weeks of the 12 week shoot were spent on a huge, 14 room composite
set, where the design team created the interior of the Palace of
further weeks were spent on an exterior set, built into the ruins
of a castle outside Prague, where the streets of London were constructed.
had to build 17th-century London and Whitehall because it largely
doesn't exist anymore. What we were trying to do was to create a
world that wasn't entirely naturalistic, but instead was impressionistic,
almost like a fairly-tale setting," says Wright.
within this world, what we wanted was somebody who could completely
dominate the screen," says Harwood.
should be left in no doubt as to who was king. Rufus has that presence.
He also has charisma, physical energy and a gentleness which made
him perfect as Charles. He is powerfully good looking but sensual,
sexy and vulnerable with it."
was an extraordinarily charming, good-humoured and tolerant man,
who was one thing to his women and another to his ministers,"
was multi-faceted. Rufus not only looks like him, but has this great
ability in his acting to show charm, humour and generosity of spirit.
He can convey the complexity of the character as well as warmth.
He is also very sexy, which is what Charles was," says Hodges.
sex, politics and power dominate the drama. Charles II was a ruler
with a healthy appetite for beautiful, self-confident women.
When the uninhibited Barbara Villiers (later Countess of Castlemaine)
became Charles's mistress, she bore him several illegitimate children
and used her sexual power to try to influence and control him. She
even managed to persuade him to appoint her as lady-in-waiting to
his bewildered but spirited wife, Catharine.
"She is one of the most fabulous characters of this period,"
says Harwood of Barbara Villiers. "Helen McCrory's performance
is captivating, sexy, outrageous and brilliant."
of the most important women in Charles's life, however, was his
wife, Catharine of Braganza (played by Shirley Henderson). She was
unable to provide Charles with a legitimate child who could be his
heir, which devastated them both, but he chose not to divorce her
and seek an heir with a new wife, though under pressure to do so
from both Parliament and Court.
of the slowest-growing relationships is with Catharine," says
Harwood. "In some ways, by the time Charles dies, we find that
she really was the love of his life, certainly his closest friend."
Adrian Hodges's four-part drama Charles II – The Power &
The Passion, BBC ONE is showing two accompanying documentaries.
– Warts And All tells the story of Oliver Cromwell
and uncovers the real reason why he wanted to destroy Charles I.
Boy Who Would Be King gives an insight into the early years
of Charles II and reveals the dramatic events that shaped this complex
and contradictory character.
II – The Power & The Passion and the two accompanying
documentaries are part of a range of programmes this autumn for
BBC ONE which offers audiences an opportunity to consider new perspectives
on historic, social and personal situations.
follow Pompeii – The Last Day and Colosseum – Rome's
Arena Of Death, which were shown in October.
by Joe Wright (Bodily Harm) and produced by Kate Harwood, Charles
II – The Power & The Passion is a BBC and A&E Network
production for BBC ONE.
executive producers are Laura Mackie (BBC) and Delia Fine (A&E).
provides an accompanying website at www.bbc.co.uk/charles.
II – The Power & The Passion starts Sunday 16
November, 9.00pm, BBC ONE
II - The Power & The Passion press pack is available below in
format, as a complete pack or in sections.
may require Adobe Acrobat Software to read PDF files which can be
Charles II - The Power & The Passion press pack
and crew (41 KB)
interviews (400 KB)
women of the Court (260 KB)
cast information (97 KB)
the Czech Republic into 17th-century England
Mistresses of Charles II & 10 Things You Didn’t Know About
Charles II and his Reign (113 KB)
II (1630-1685) (79 KB)
tree (60 KB)
events 1645-1685 (41 KB)
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