Game of Thrones actor Kit Harington has been confirmed to star in a new drama series about the infamous Gunpowder Plot of 1605, telling the little-known story of the real brains behind the operation: Robert Catesby.
Harington had been rumoured to be working on an adaptation of the story a few months ago, with the actor having previously revealed that he was descended from Catesby and that he had an interest in bringing his ancestor’s story to the screen.
Also lined up to set the screen alight in BBC1’s Gunpowder are Sherlock’s Mark Gatiss, Lord of the Rings actress Liv Tyler and Top of the Lake star Peter Mullan.
While the 5th of November has long been known as Guy Fawkes Day and celebrated with bonfires, fireworks and effigies, the three-part drama will reveal how it wasn’t all about Guy Fawkes and his tunnels under Parliament.
Instead, we meet Catesby, the 30-year-old Warwickshire gentleman who masterminded the failed assassination attempt on King James.
A contemporary portrait of Robert Catesby
In this real-life drama, Catesby is a committed Catholic in Protestant England, in a time when Catholics are relentlessly persecuted and must practice their religion in secret.
Gatiss is King James’ spymaster Chief Robert Cecil, who is tasked with hunting down, torturing and executing priests.
Catesby is trying to bring up his young son in an increasingly intolerant society, having recently lost both his wife and father. He is angered by the suffering of his fellow Catholics, and though head Jesuit Father Garnet (Mullan) urges peaceful protest, this is not enough.
Instead, our protagonist starts to recruit friends and relatives to his secret plot. But what will happen when his cousin Anne Vaux (Tyler) becomes suspicious of his plans – and begins to fear the unintended consequences of Catesby’s actions? Meanwhile, a deadly cat-and-mouse game with Cecil’s spy network is under way.
The 17th century thriller has been written by Ronan Bennett and will be directed by J Blakeson when filming begins later this month. It will be made by Kudos, which has also brought us Apple Tree Yard, Broadchurch, Grantchester and Humans.
The television production company’s CEO Diederick Santer comments: “The Gunpowder Plot is one of the best known stories in Britain and most people are aware of the basic facts.
“But what Ronan has achieved with his page-turning script, and what I hope Kit and Peter and the rest of the magnificent cast will do, is to take the BBC1 audience behind the story, into the people, the passion and the politics.
“This will be a hugely engaging drama with a fascinating contemporary resonance, showing the consequences of what can happen when a religious minority is persecuted.”