BBC America, 'Downton Abbey' Maker to Co-Produce Historical Drama 'Last Kingdom'

Gareth Neame
Gareth Neame
 

LONDON – U.K. public broadcaster BBC said Wednesday that is has ordered historical drama The Last Kingdom for its BBC Two network.

The co-production between Downton Abbey producer Carnival Films, owned by NBCUniversal, and BBC America is an adaptation of Bernard Cornwell's best-selling book series The Saxon Stories. BAFTA-nominated writer Stephen Butchard is adapting the books, which have drawn comparisons with Game of Thrones.

Production on eight hourlong episodes is set to begin in the fall.

Cornwell is also known for his Sharpe novels that became a long-running TV series of the same name starring Sean Bean.

Set in the year 872, when many of the separate kingdoms of what is now England have fallen to the invading Vikings, the series is about the kingdom of Wessex that has been left standing alone and defiant under the command of King Alfred the Great.

Protagonist Uhtred is the son of a Saxon nobleman and orphaned by the Vikings and then kidnapped and raised as one of their own. "Forced to choose between the country of his birth and the people of his upbringing, his loyalties are ever tested," according to a show description. "What is he — Saxon or Viking? On a quest to claim his birthright, Uhtred must tread a dangerous path between both sides if he is to play his part in the birth of a new nation and, ultimately, seek to recapture his ancestral lands."

Carnival's Gareth Neame, Nigel Marchant and Butchard will serve as executive producers, with Nick Murphy (Prey, Occupation) co-executive producing and directing multiple episodes. Chrissy Skinns (Mr Selfridge) is producing the show.

"Cornwell's Saxon novels combine historical figures and events with fiction in an utterly compelling way," said Neame.

Said Ben Stephenson, controller, BBC drama commissioning: "I hope The Last Kingdom will expand BBC Two's distinctive portfolio of drama. It's an epic narrative with an extraordinary creative team. It will feel like nothing else on television, with all of the scale and intrigue of the best fantasy stories but the reality of fact."

Email: Georg.Szalai@THR.com
Twitter: @georgszalai

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