‘Succession’ Star Harriet Walter To Play Margaret Thatcher In ‘Frost/Nixon’-Style Channel 4 Drama From Stephen Frears, James Graham, Steve Coogan

EXCLUSIVE: Will this lady be for turning?

Succession star Harriet Walter is taking on Maggie Thatcher in splashy Channel 4 drama series Brian and Margaret, which is being directed by Stephen Frears, penned by James Graham and co-starring Steve Coogan. Coogan’s BBC Studios-backed Baby Cow is producing.

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Unveiled with three weeks until the general election, the two-parter is a dramatization of the story behind and occasion of Thatcher’s last TV interview, the hugely damaging ITV grilling by her old friend Brian Walden (Coogan), which some view as the final nail in her prime ministerial coffin.

The pair were cosy in the run up to the interview and had faced each other before on the small screen but Walden – who was one of the most feared political interviewers of his day – struck several blows particularly with a line of questioning about the recent resignation of Thatcher’s chancellor, Nigel Lawson. Thatcher stood down a year after the 1989 interview and never spoke to Walden again. The project was revealed in its infancy to Deadline a year ago by Baby Cow CEO Sarah Monteith, who described a Thatcher series in development that would “say something about the nature of debate in our country.” You can watch the Thatcher-Walden interview in full at the bottom of the page.

Thatcher being interviewed by Walden at Southbank Studios, London. Image: PA Images via Getty Images.
Thatcher being interviewed by Walden at Southbank Studios, London. Image: PA Images via Getty Images.

The series will “ask whether the slow death of full-length political TV interviews puts modern democracy at risk,” according to Channel 4. In a similar vein to Netflix’s Scoop about the notorious Prince Andrew interview, it is based on two chapters from a book – Why Is This Lying Bastard Lying to Me by ex-BBC producer Rob Burley. It comes with political interviews in the spotlight as current PM Rishi Sunak and Labour leader Keir Starmer face grillings from modern-day Walden aspirants such as the BBC’s Nick Robinson and Sky’s Beth Rigby.

Walter was Emmy nominated for her role as Logan Roy’s ex-wife Lady Caroline Collingwood in HBO smash Succession, while she has also starred in Killing Eve, Silo and The Crown, and is a doyen of the West End stage.

She takes on a role played by plenty down the years. Gillian Anderson won an Emmy for her portrayal in The Crown and Meryl Streep scooped an Oscar 12 years ago for The Iron Lady. Others to have portrayed one of Britain’s longest-serving PMs include Lesley Manville in Frears’ The Queen, Andrea Riseborough, and Lindsay Duncan. Lesley-Anne Down can soon be seen playing Thatcher in Sean McNamara’s upcoming Reagan biopic.

With her left-wing political leanings, Walter joked that she “has to travel a great distance to reach Maggie Thatcher.” “But with James’s brilliant script, Stephen Frears to guide me and Steve Coogan to accompany me I have the dream team to help me achieve it,” she added.

Coogan said: “It’s great to be telling a story from the era of the sorely missed forensic interview – two giants of their time locking horns to determine the future of Britain. To act opposite Harriet Walter with a script by James Graham directed by Stephen Frears is a challenge of the very best kind.”

Sherwood creator Graham, who was unveiled yesterday as the Edinburgh TV Festival 2024 MacTaggart lecturer, said the show will “bring to life the intimate and complicated relationship” between Walden and Thatcher.

Graham has had an iron grip on the UK’s political TV drama and theater scene of late, while two-time Oscar nominee Frears has helmed many a political project down the years.

Brian and Margaret is the first greenlight for newly-appointed Director of Film4 and Head of Channel 4 Drama Ollie Madden, who took over the combined role earlier this year. Madden commissioned with Ben Wadey. EPs are Monteith, Delyth Scudamore and Rupert Majendie, while Dan Winch is producer. BBC Studios is selling internationally.

Walter is repped by Elizabeth Fieldhouse and Christian Hodell at Hamilton Hodell. Coogan is repped by Independent Talent and CAA. Further casting will be unveiled in due course.

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