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BBC, Carnival Producing Viking Drama ‘The Last Kingdom’

The BBC and “Downton Abbey” producer Carnival Films have teamed up to produce historical drama series, “The Last Kingdom,” BBC America announced Wednesday.

The eight-episode, hourlong series will be adapted from Bernard Cornwell’s best-selling novels, “The Saxon Stories,” by writer Stephen Butchard.

Set in the year 872, when many of the separate kingdoms of what we now know as England have fallen to the invading Vikings, the great kingdom of Wessex has been left standing alone and defiant under the command of King Alfred the Great. Against this turbulent backdrop lives “The Last Kingdom’s” hero, Uhtred. Born the son of a Saxon nobleman, he is orphaned by the Vikings and then kidnapped and raised as one of their own. Forced to choose between the country of his birth and the people of his upbringing, his loyalties are ever tested. What is he — Saxon or Viking? On a quest to claim his birthright, Uhtred must tread a dangerous path between both sides if he is to play his part in the birth of a new nation and, ultimately, seek to recapture his ancestral lands.

“Cornwell’s Saxon novels combine historical figures and events with fiction in an utterly compelling way,” said executive producer Gareth Neame. “In the hands of Stephen Butchard we believe it will make original and engrossing television drama. In part the epic quest of our hero Uhtred, it is also a fascinating re-telling of the tale of King Alfred the Great and how he united the many separate kingdoms on this island into what would become England.”

Richard De Croce, senior VP Programming for BBC America said, “We couldn’t be more pleased to be working with BBC Two and Carnival Films — a hugely successful British production company that really knows how to create a hit for the US. ‘The Last Kingdom’ is an engrossing story of epic scale that will feed our audience’s appetite for excitement, smart storytelling and compelling characters.”

Ben Stephenson, controller of drama commissioning, BBC, said, “I hope ‘The Last Kingdom’ will expand BBC Two’s distinctive portfolio of drama. It’s an epic narrative with an extraordinary creative team. It will feel like nothing else on television, with all of the scale and intrigue of the best fantasy stories but the reality of fact.”

Much like History Channel’s “Vikings,” “The Last Kingdom” will combine real historical figures and events with fiction, exploring themes like religion, politics, warfare and the quest for identity.

Butchard, Neame and Nigel Marchant will serve as executive producers with Nick Murphy co-executive producing and directing multiple episodes. Chrissy Skinns will also produce. Stephenson ordered the show for BBC Two, and BBC’s Polly Hill serves as Commissioning Editor. De Croce and Perry Simon, General Manager, Channels, will oversee the series for BBC America.

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