To be, or not to be? That has certainly been the question for TNT’s upcoming series Will. Based on a young William Shakespeare, the project was originally being developed by HBO, and then in 2013 for Participant Media’s channel Pivot, and then the series was picked up by TNT last year. According to an article in Deadline, the first season, containing 10 episodes, will premiere this summer on July 10th.
The series will follow a young William Shakespeare as he explores ‘punk-rock’ theater scene that exists in 16th century London. As theatre was the rock n’ roll of the day, the fictional series will have a rebellious tone infused with modern influences (possibly similar to CW’s Reign). Laurie Davidson will portray Shakespeare, with a supporting cast including Olivia DeJonge, Ewen Bremner, Colm Meaney, Jamie Campbell Bower and Mattias Inwood.
With love interst Alice Burbage (DeJonge), Will finds himself being thrust into the London theatre scene. Alice is the rebellious daughter of carpenter James Burbage (Meaney), who has the idea to build the first theatre in London since the Romans inhabited the city. Richard Burbage (Inwood) is his narcissistic son, who aspires to be an actor. Shakespeare’s archrival Christopher Marlowe (Bower) also joins the season, along with notorious chief law enforcer Richard Topcliffe (Bremner) also making appearances.
Craig Pearce (Moulin Rogue, The Great Gatsby, Romeo + Juliet) wrote the series. Shekhar Kapur (Elizabeth, Elizabeth: The Golden Age) directed the pilot episode. Alison Owen (Elizabeth) and Debra Hayward (Love Actually), as well as Vince Gerardis, Howard Braunstein and Louise Rosager, will all serve as executive producers alongside Pearce and Kapur.
Pearce described his inspiration for the series in an interview at Television Critics Association in January, saying theater in the 1500s “was like punk rock,” as it was “a completely revolutionary form of entertainment, something for the masses” and was always “rapidly evolving.”
Sarah Aubrey, EVP of Original Programming for TNT, said the following regarding the series in May 2016, according to an article in Deadline:
Will has an energy and style that is unlike anything else on television today. Shakespeare was a 16th century rock star, and Will perfectly captures in contemporary terms what that must have felt like for the young writer and his fans. We are delighted to be working with such an extraordinary team of executive producers and cast in putting a fresh, bold spin on the story of Shakespeare.
Davidson, the recent graduate of the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art who will portray the world-renowned playwright, received the part while still a student at LAMDA. Now as a graduate of the prestigious school, he joins a successful group of alumni from the school that includes Benedict Cumberbatch, Chiwetel Ejiofor, David Oyelowo, Sam Claflin, John Lithgow, and Donald Sutherland.
Shakespeare has been depicted before, most memorably in 1998’s Shakespeare in Love, where he was portrayed by Joseph Fiennes. His works have also found contemporary adaptations featuring teens, such as Taming the Shrew inspiring the 1999 romantic comedy Ten Things I Hate About You, and Twelfth Night inspiring the 2006 romantic comedy She’s the Man. We’ll just have to wait and see if Will will have the same success with teen and young adult audiences.
Stay tuned for more details about the upcoming summer premiere of Will.