Disney+ announced it was boarding the forthcoming adaptation of C.J. Sansom's Shardlake novels from All3Media's The Forge in January 2023. Set during the reign of Henry VIII in the 16th century, these historical mystery novels star a hunchbacked lawyer, Matthew Shardlake, whose first case is commissioned by Henry's chief minister, Thomas Cromwell. Though the series was filmed in 2022, it's been over a year since we've heard anything more, with Disney finally debuting the first trailer and entire cast.
Arthur Hughes (Ordeal by Innocence) plays Matthew Shardlake, one of the few honest lawyers in London with an acute sense of justice. Sean Bean (Time) plays Shardlake's boss, Thomas Cromwell, who fans of Wolf Hall know was the real-life, all-powerful right-hand man to Henry VIII. The trio of stars is rounded out by Anthony Boyle (Masters of the Air), the cocky and good-looking Jack Barak, who is technically Shardlake's assistant, though Shardlake isn't so sure if his loyalties are to him or Cromwell as a spy.
At this point, Shardlake is still being billed as a series that's coming to Disney+ across the board, but it should be noted that this is a Disney+ UK series, many of which wind up on Hulu in America since they tend to be PG-13 (or "not family-friendly enough for Disney"). With Hulu moving under the Disney+ banner in America, that will be less of a big deal, at least for those who subscribe to both. But for now, it's uncertain which banner the show winds up under for those who only subscribe to one or the other, and we'll be keeping an eye on that.
Here's the series full synopsis:
Drenched in mystery, suspense, and deception, this four-part drama, based on the first novel in Sansom’s series, is an eerie whodunnit adventure set in 16th-century England during the dissolution of the monasteries. Shardlake’s sheltered life as a lawyer is turned upside down when Cromwell instructs him to investigate the murder of one of his commissioners at a monastery in the remote town of Scarnsea. The commissioner was gathering evidence to close the monastery, and it is now imperative for Cromwell’s own political survival that Shardlake both solves the murder and closes the monastery. He leaves Shardlake in no doubt that failure is not an option. Cromwell insists that he is accompanied by Jack Barak to Scarnsea, where the duo are met with hostility, suspicion, and paranoia by the monks who fear for their future and will seemingly stop at nothing to preserve their order.
The series also stars Babou Ceesay (We Hunt Together) as Abbot Fabian, Paul Kaye (Vera) as Brother Jerome, Ruby Ashbourne Serkis (Becoming Elizabeth) as Alice, Peter Firth (Victoria) as Norfolk, Matthew Steer (Partners In Crime) as Goodhap, Brian Vernel (Slow Horses) as Brother Mortimus, Irfan Shamji (The Ipcress Files) as Brother Guy, David Pearse (Dalgliesh) as Brother Edwig, Miles Barrow (Riches) as Brother Gabriel, Mike Noble (Home Fires) as Bugge, and Kimberley Nixon (The Salisbury Poisonings) as Joan.
All episodes of Shardlake are written by Stephen Butchard (The Good Mothers), with director Justin Chadwick (The Other Boleyn Girl) helming all installments and John Griffin producing. The series is executive produced by George Ormond and Mark Pybus for The Forge (a Banijay UK company) and Stevie Lee for Runaway Fridge. The series was commissioned by Lee Mason for Disney+, with Jonny Richards serving as executive producer for Disney+.
Shardlake does not yet have a release date but is expected out sometime in 2024.