The resemblance the cast have to their real life counterparts is astonishing - take a look at their incredible transformations.
There is an underestimated level of difficulty in a TV show based on real events, where the actors need to closely resemble the person they’re playing as possible. For the pandemic-based show This England, not only were hundreds of hours spent interviewing those involved in the COVID-19 response to ensure accurate storytelling, but the cast also invested lots of time into studying the mannerisms and characteristics of the high profile characters they were playing - namely Boris Johnson and other government officials. The icing on the cake is the incredible work of prosthetics and makeup artists to really bring the characters to life and add the final layer of authenticity. As we look at each cast member before and after their character transformation, it’s safe to say the makeup department did a brilliant job.
If you’re now keen to watch the series, we have a guide to where to watch This England (opens in new tab), as well as other essential information about the show. For more drama, Netflix have released the harrowing reimagining of a group of young boys rescued from a flooded cave in Thailand. Viewers asking is the Thai Cave Rescue based on a true story (opens in new tab) have their questions answered. Meanwhile on Channel 5, vintage veterinary drama unfolds for another season - All Creatures Great and Small filmed (opens in new tab) across some beautiful areas of North England, brings cosiness to autumnal days.
This England cast: Before and after photos
Kenneth Branagh as Boris Johnson
Sir Kenneth Charles Branagh is a hugely decorated and well known British actor and filmmaker. He has been the recipient of an Academy Award, four BAFTAs, two Emmy Awards, and a Golden Globe Award, and was knighted in 2012. He is known for his appearance as Professor Gilderoy Lockhart in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, and directing the acclaimed semi-autobiographical comedy-drama Belfast.
According to Yahoo Movies (opens in new tab), Branagh was in makeup for 3 hours a day to achieve his Boris Johnson look. He said “It took about three hours each day to get into a suit that bulked me up and then to wear various prosthetics. One was like a neck piece balaclava, and a lot of time was spent making sure the pieces were blended seamlessly into my own skin so you couldn't see the join”.
His upper lip was made bigger, and his eyes made to slope like Boris’s.
Branagh added “Then we had to pull down the eyelids to have the sort of slight slope that is a Johnsonian family trait - followed by a hairpiece, and a bigger upper lip ... it was very brilliantly done, but it was not a prosthetic that allowed you to be in a world of chewing - or consuming soup during the day”.
Ophelia Lovibond as Carrie Johnson
British actress Ophelia Lovibond is best known for the role of Carina in Guardians of the Galaxy, Joyce Prigger in HBO's Minx, and Erica in the Apple TV sitcom Trying.
Make-up artist Vanessa Martin was responsible for Lovibond’s transformation into Carrie - she has previously worked on Bridget Jones’s Diary and Gravity. Speaking to Glamour (opens in new tab), Lovibond described how she sent a picture of herself as Carrie to her mum, when her makeup was complete. Her mum assumed she had been sent a picture of the actual Carrie Johnson. She said “I thought to myself ‘okay, that’s a good sign!’”.
Simon Paisley Day as Dominic Cummings
Simon Paisley Day has worked extensively in theatre throughout his career, alongside some TV and film appearances. Notable theatre credits include The Taming of the Shrew, Hamlet, The Crucible and Troilus and Cressida.
Dominic Cummings catapulted into the public eye during early COVID-19 days for travelling while infected with the virus, and eventually being sacked by Johnson. In the series, Paisley Day as Cummings is seen saying “We don’t want to be distracted by events, we want to focus on long term strategy”, followed by a series of catastrophic events with apparently little strategic thought behind them.
Shri Patel as Rishi Sunak
Shri Patel has worked predominantly in theatre during his career, with occasional TV appearances including Pennyworth. This is his biggest role to date.
From the snippets of Patel’s performance that can be seen in trailers for the show, he has Sunak’s voice and mannerisms absolutely nailed - his is set to be a standout performance in the series.
Alec Nicholls as Patrick Vallance
Alec Nicholls is known to TV audiences for appearances in The Midwich Cuckoos, and Broadchurch.
Patrick Vallance acted as the government’s chief scientific advisor during the pandemic, stepping down from his role in August 2022. Boris Johnson said Vallance “played an instrumental role in expanding and accelerating the science super-prowess of this country... overseeing the development and innovative use of new technologies, responding to the global threat of climate change, boosting the life sciences and health of our nation and ensuring our policies and decisions are informed by the latest and best scientific thinking”.
James Livingstone as Chris Witty
James “Jimmy” Livingstone usually works as a voice director for animation and video games. He also works as a singer/songwriter and spoken-word poet, having stepped away from acting over a decade ago.
However, he recently shared to his Twitter (opens in new tab) account that he’d made a return to acting for the role of Chris Witty in This England. He said “I made a totally unexpected return to acting last year after over a decade away from it. M Winterbottom’s This England starts tonight on Sky Atlantic, 9pm. I’m playing Chris Whitty, @CMO_England, something I never thought I’d say. He’s a good man, hope I’ve done him justice”.
Andrew Buchan as Matt Hancock
Andrew Buchan is best known for his roles as Mark Latimer in Broadchurch, John Mercer in The Fixer, and William Garrow in Garrow's Law.
Speaking to The Independent (opens in new tab) about the role, Buchan said “With Matt, the main thing for me playing the man was not to go in there and play people’s opinions of the man. But literally purely and simply to play what was written for me on the page.”
He spoke to Hancock’s former colleagues and studied CCTV footage of him kissing his lover when he should’ve been at home. He continued to say “What I’d gleaned from certain people who worked closely with him, was that the man was obsessed with planning. I think that definitely comes across in the script.”
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