One of PBS’ upcoming projects is “The Hollow Crown,” which puts Shakespeare’s “Richard II,” Henry IV” parts 1 and 2 and “Henry V” come to life in miniseries form. Star Tom Hiddleston says at 2013 TCAs that Shakespeare is always ripe for new adaptations.
“I’ve always believed that Shakespeare’s ripe for reinvention and rediscovery and reinterpretation because the soul of the actor that takes on the role is necessarily different. … All the actor has to do is fill the well of the character with their own humanity,” says Hiddleston.
He adds that playing Henry V was in stark contrast to what we see nowadays with battles and wars.
“We live in a world where … we don’t trust rhetoric in the same way. It seems like it’s talking a big game without walking the walk and the thing in my mind that distinguished Henry V is he’s able to give [the St. Crispin’s Day] speech on the morning of the battle knowing that his army is outnumbered … there’s no question in his mind they’re going to lose and what impels him to give that speech is because he is the commander in chief,” says Hiddleston. “Once he finishes, he jumps on a horse and rides into battle first, which is a unique position for a military commander and something we don’t have anymore. The ones who make dcisdions about war now are not the ones who are on the frontline.”
He adds that if he were a soldier now, he would want his leader “to get off his horse and to stand on the ground that [he] was standing on and talk to [us].”
In putting these plays together for a miniseries, executive producer Gareth Neame says that despite these plays being centuries old, there are universal themes in what could be considered the genesis for television drama we see nowadays.
“I just looked at [these plays] as this is sort of the beginning of [drama]. It’s amazing to look at however many hundred years ago there’s the same sort of sense of narrative as there is now in shows. … Everything that we do in drama is in these four plays. The nature of relationships and power and romance and comedy, everything is in there,” says Neame.
Hiddleston adds that the plays have “such a depth of understanding and intelligence and passion for all human nature that I find dizzying and extraordinary, every time I engage with [Shakespeare’s] work. It isn’t as though he just understands one of his character … he understands everybody and that’s what I think distinguishes him from pretty much every other dramatic writer I can think of. His plays are able to entertain and tell neat and thrilling stories and be funny and tragic and moving and inspiring. And I always come away feeling more alive than I did before.”
“The Hollow Crown” premieres Friday, Sept. 20 on PBS.