'King Charles III' to Premiere on Masterpiece This May

Tim Pigott-Smith as Charles (Photo:  Courtesy of Robert Viglasky/Drama Republic for BBC and MASTERPIECE)

King Charles III MASTERPIECE on PBS Sunday, May 14, 2017 at 9pm ET A willful king … a prophetic ghost … family betrayals … revenge! It sounds like a play by Shakespeare, but it’s a drama about the future. MASTERPIECE presents an adaptation of the Tony®-nominated hit Broadway show King Charles III, starring the late Tim Pigott-Smith (The Jewel in the Crown, Downton Abbey) as Prince Charles after his accession to the throne, sometime in the years ahead. Daringly scripted in blank verse by Mike Bartlett (Doctor Foster, Doctor Who) and directed by Rupert Goold (The Hollow Crown), King Charles III focuses on the crisis-strewn transition of power when Charles becomes King. Bartlett envisions the turmoil that rocks the monarchy when his turn finally comes. Shown: Tim Pigott-Smith as Charles For editorial use only. Courtesy of Robert Viglasky/Drama Republic for BBC and MASTERPIECE

Robert Viglasky Photography

The award-winning play King Charles III will be coming to a PBS station near you this May. Masterpiece presents a television adaptation of the Tony-nominated show, starring the late actor Tim Pigott Smith. He also performed the lead role in both the Broadway and West End productions, the latter of which won the Olivier Award for Best new Play in 2015. The 90-minute drama airs Sunday, May 14 at 9pm. So mark your calendars now!

Sadly, Pigott-Smith passed away unexpectedly this past April. Probably best known for his role in period drama The Jewel in the Crown, he also appeared in many other beloved productions, including Downton Abbey, North and South, Foyle’s War, The Hour, The Chief, The Bletchley Circle and more.

“The MASTERPIECE family is heartbroken at the loss of Tim Pigott-Smith, a wonderful actor and a warm and charming man. We are going to miss him,” Executive Producer Rebecca Eaton said in a statement. And King Charles III playwright Mike Bartlett remembered him as “one of the real greats, both as an actor and a man.”

King Charles III speculates about the events of a “future history”, when Prince Charles ascends to the throne after Queen Elizabeth II's death. Due to the fact that his mother is the longest-reigning British monarch ever, Charles himself is the longest-waiting British heir ever, and the play imagines the turmoil that ensues when his time as King finally comes. When he refuses to sign a controversial bill into law, political chaos ensues, including a constitutional crisis and rioting in the streets.

Original playwright Bartlett also penned the script for this television adaptation.  

You can watch this clip of the show from the 2016 Tony Awards to get a better feel for it: 


Aside from Charles, the show naturally features appearances by other characters based on real-life figures, including his sons William and Harry, played by Breathless’ Oliver Chris and Ripper Street’s Richard Goulding. Peaky Blinders’ Charlotte Riley plays William’s wife, Kate and MI-5’s Margot Leicster plays Charles’ wife Camilla.

What do you think, folks? Does King Charles III sound like something you’d watch?

Lacy Baugher

Lacy's love of British TV is embarrassingly extensive, but primarily centers around evangelizing all things Doctor Who, and watching as many period dramas as possible.

Digital media type by day, she also has a fairly useless degree in British medieval literature, and dearly loves to talk about dream poetry, liminality, and the medieval religious vision. (Sadly, that opportunity presents itself very infrequently.) York apologist, Ninth Doctor enthusiast, and unabashed Ravenclaw. Say hi on Threads or Blue Sky at @LacyMB. 

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