Benedict Cumberbatch & More Star in THE HOLLOW CROWN on PBS's Great Performances

Benedict Cumberbatch & More Star in THE HOLLOW CROWN on PBS's Great PerformancesTHE HOLLOW CROWN: THE WAR OF THE ROSES is a lavish three-part follow-up to the BAFTA winning The Hollow Crown, which aired in 2013 on THIRTEEN's Great Performances.

The first series of The Hollow Crown covered the so-called Henriad comprising Richard II, Henry IV, Parts I and II and Henry V. Now, The Wars of the Roses - which comes to GREAT PERFORMANCES on three consecutive Sundays beginning December 11 at 9 p.m. - picks up the story with epic film versions of Henry VI (in two parts) and Richard III.

The new series aired to great acclaim on the BBC this May. Veteran theater critic Michael Billington noted in his review that "Shakespeare outdoes 'Game of Thrones,'" adding "[Director Dominic] Cooke directs with such sweep and ...there are so many tremendous performances." In his review of the first episode in the Telegraph, Tim Auld observed, "What Cooke captures is the scope, the daring and the savage headlong rush of the poet's imagination..."

The series, a Neal Street co-production with Carnival/NBCUniversal and THIRTEEN for BBC Two, was filmed in locations around the UK. Award-winning director Dominic Cooke (former Artistic Director of The Royal Court theatre) makes his TV directorial debut with the three films.

The series features some of the UK's finest acting talent including Benedict Cumberbatch as Richard III, Tom Sturridge as Henry VI, Sophie Okonedo as Queen Margaret, Hugh Bonneville as Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, Judi Dench asCecily, Duchess of York, Sally Hawkins asEleanor, Duchess of Gloucester, and Keeley Hawes asQueen Elizabeth.

Also featured in the all-star cast are Michael Gambon as Mortimer, Philip Glenister as Talbot, Andrew Scott as King Louis, Jason Watkins as Suffolk, Samuel West as the Bishop of Winchester, Stanley Townsend as Warwick, Adrian Dunbar as Plantagenet, Geoffrey Streatfeild as Edward IV, Ben Daniels as Buckingham, Ben Miles as Somerset, Sam Troughton as George, Duke of Clarence, Stuart McQuarrie as Vernon, Anton Lesseras Exeter, Kyle Soller as Clifford, Phoebe FOX as Anne, James Fleet as Hastings and Lucy Robinson as Young Cecily.

The Executive Producers are Sam Mendes, Pippa Harris, Nicolas Brown, Gareth Neame, and David Horn. The Producer is Rupert Ryle-Hodges. The Hollow Crown was commissioned by Ben Stephenson, former Controller BBC Drama commissioning.

Sam Mendes, executive producer for Neal Street Productions, said: "Seven years after we very first suggested the idea to the BBC, yet again we have assembled an amazing cast under the direction of the hugely talented Dominic Cooke. I'm very excited indeed to see them all bring the rest of this astonishing story to life."

Ben Power (Associate Director of The National Theatre), who previously wrote the screenplays for Richard II and Henry V, has adapted the cycle for the screen.

Synopses:

Henry VI Part 1 (December 11, 9 p.m.)

The King is dead and England is in crisis. War rages with the French and divisions within the English court threaten the crown. Young Henry VI causes outrage by marrying Margaret of Anjou, forcing an unwanted truce; the scene is set for Civil War.

Henry VI Part 2 (December 18, 9 p.m.)

Bitter rivalries erupt into the Wars of the Roses. The feeble King Henry is overshadowed by Queen Margaret and her faction of Lancastrian Lords, his reign further undermined by disaffected nobles supporting the House of York. Battle and bloodshed ensues and the Yorkists triumph. Edward IV takes the thrown, but his youngest brother Richard has his eyes firmly on the crown.

Richard III (December 25, 9 p.m.)

Richard, the most notorious of Shakespeare's kings, manipulates and betrays his way through the court on a bloodthirsty and ruthless path to the throne. But after Richard's defeat at the battle of Bosworth Field, the Houses of Lancaster and York-the red rose and the white-are united, bringing to an end the Wars of the Roses and long tumultuous period of civil strife.

The Hollow Crown: The Wars of The Roses is available from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment on both Blu-ray™ and DVD, and includes deleted scenes and a making-of featurette.

Great Performances is a production of THIRTEEN Productions LLC for WNET, one of America's most prolific and respected public media providers. Throughout its 40 year history on public television, GREAT PERFORMANCES has provided viewers across the country with an unparalleled showcase of the best in all genres of the performing arts, serving as America's most prestigious and enduring broadcaster of cultural programming. Bill O'Donnell is series producer; David Horn is executive producer.

Major funding for GREAT PERFORMANCES is provided by the Irene Diamond Fund, the Anna-Maria and Stephen Kellen Arts Fund, The Joseph & Robert Cornell Memorial Foundation, the LuEsther T. Mertz Charitable Trust, Rosalind P. Walter, The Agnes Varis Trust, The Starr Foundation, The Kate W. Cassidy Foundation, Ellen and James S. Marcus, The Philip and Janice Levin Foundation, the Lenore Hecht Foundation, The Abra Prentice Foundation, Jody and John Arnhold, and PBS.

Photo credit: Robert Viglasky 2015 Carnival Film Television Ltd

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