Sky looks to rival Game of Thrones with ambitious new Britannia


Sky’s newest epic features incredible acting and a bold premise

No, it’s not Game Of Thrones’ final season, but Sky Atlantic’s new series, Britannia.

Not entirely dissimilar to the hit show, it may help viewers mark time before the final clash between Game Of Thrones’ warring clans is screened later this year.

In contrast to the fictional fantasy world created by George RR Martin, however, Britannia – written by Jez Butterworth, the acclaimed playwright who also co-wrote the James Bond movie Spectre – is a dramatised British tale based on fact.

Britannia starts with the Roman invasion of our island in AD43, when the landing legions found Celtic Britain full of tribes locked in bloody conflict and powerful Druids claiming they could channel the underworld.

The real-life invading Roman general, Aulus Plautius, is played by British favourite David Morrissey.

David Morrissey Aulus PlautiusGETTY

The Walking Dead’s David Morrissey plays Aulus Plautius

This is a land in which the Romans have been defeated before under Caesar

David Morrissey

In his opening scene his character’s ruthlessness is made evident when he offers to spare the life of one his own army deserters in exchange for that deserter killing the other three.

But Aulus is not just an evil manipulator – he’s a thinking man who realises that to subdue these strange, uncivilised Britons, he must try to understand them.

“He’s a Roman general, a ruthless guy, but he’s also searching for something else,” explains David, 53.

“This is a land in which the Romans have been defeated before under Caesar – where they’ve turned tail and gone back to Rome [which happened under Julius Caesar in 55BC]. So he’s out to prove himself in that respect, but also, he’s there on a personal, spiritual journey, to find out what he can about the Druid philosophy and belief system. He’s a man on a mission.”

For his performance Mackenzie drew on the strangest of inspirations.

“This is going to sound weird, but I sort of drew on Springwatch,” says the 46-year-old actor.

“It’s actually the most brutal and violent show on television. That sympathy and empathy that humans have, it doesn’t exist out there. Veran is like the seasons. There’s no room for sentiment, sympathy or empathy.”

That sums up the ethos of Britannia. And while it might not have dragons, it has enough sex and savagery to fill a Game Of Thrones-sized gap in the TV schedules.

Britannia airs Thursday 18th at pm on Sky Atlantic

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