BBC America, Carnival Films - the Golden Globe and Emmy Award-winning producers of Downton Abbey - and BBC Two announced today that production will begin this fall on The Last Kingdom, a new historical 8 x 60 drama series.
BAFTA nominated and RTS award-winning writer Stephen Butchard, (Good Cop, Five Daughters, House of Saddam), will adapt Bernard Cornwell's best-selling franchise "The Saxon Stories" for the screen. Cornwell is also known for his much-loved "Sharpe" novels that became the long-running TV series of the same name starring Sean Bean and aired on BBC America.
Set in the year 872, when many of the separate kingdoms of what we now know as England have fallen to the invading Vikings, the great kingdom of Wessex has been left standing alone and defiant under the command of King Alfred the Great.
Against this turbulent backdrop lives our hero, Uhtred. Born the son of a Saxon nobleman, he is 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. 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.
The Last Kingdom, made by Carnival Films, is a show full of heroic deeds and epic battles but with a thematic depth that embraces politics, religion, warfare, courage, love, loyalty and our universal search for identity. Combining real historical figures and events with fictional characters, it is the story of how a people combined their strength under one of the most iconic kings of history in order to reclaim their land for themselves and build a place they call home.
Gareth Neame, Nigel Marchant and Stephen Butchard will serve as Executive Producers with Nick Murphy (Prey, Occupation), co-executive producing and directing multiple episodes and Chrissy Skinns (Mr. Selfridge, Marchlands), will produce the show. The Commissioning Editor is Polly Hill for the BBC and Ben Stephenson, Controller of BBC Drama Commissioning, ordered the show. Perry Simon, General Manager, Channels, and Richard De Croce, SVP Programming, will oversee the series for BBC America.
Here's what executive producer Gareth Neame had to say in a statement.
"Cornwell's Saxon novels combine historical figures and events with fiction in an utterly compelling way. In the hands of Stephen Butchard we believe it will make original and engrossing television drama. In part the epic quest of our hero Uhtred, it is also a fascinating re-telling of the tale of King Alfred the Great and how he united the many separate kingdoms on this island into what would become England."
Richard De Croce, SVP Programming, BBC America also added his own statement.
"We couldn't be more pleased to be working with BBC Two and Carnival Films - a hugely successful British production company that really knows how to create a hit for the US. The Last Kingdom is an engrossing story of epic scale that will feed our audience's appetite for excitement, smart storytelling and compelling characters."
Ben Stephenson, Controller of Drama Commissioning, BBC, had this to say about The Last Kingdom's story.
"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."