TV preview - The Hollow Crown: The Wars of the Roses

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The cast of the concluding trilogy of Shakespeare’s history plays reads like a who’s who of British acting talent.

Benedict Cumberbatch, Sam West, Hugh Bonneville and Dame Judi Dench all star in the epic adaptation which brings Henry VI Part I & II and Richard III to the small screen. The series opens with France and England at war and the royal court in turmoil.

“What scriptwriter Ben Power has done is to create a sense of a through-line in the themes across the plays,” says Cumberbatch, who plays Richard III.

“Richard’s arc is hugely brilliant. He gives a speech about how he’s going to go and kill the king, Henry, and how this ties into his feelings about himself as a disabled man. I think that humanises him. As an actor you have to flesh out your character. You can’t pantomime with the daggers and the looks, because that gets dull.”

Dame Judi plays Richard III’s mother and she admits the role was something of a homecoming.

“I play this old bag, Cecily, Duchess of York. Everybody she loves has been killed; her husband, her children. It’s thrilling and lovely to play her, since York is where I come from.”

The Hollow Crown: The Wars of the Roses, BBC2, Saturday, 9pm