The upcoming series based on C.J. Sansom's Tudor murder mystery novel series of the same name, stars Arthur Hughes (The Innocents) in the lead role as Matthew Shardlake, alongside Sean Bean (Game of Thrones) and Anthony Boyle (Masters of the Air).
Also joining the cast is Babou Ceesay (Damilola) as Abbot Fabian, Paul Kaye (The Stranger) as Brother Jerome and Ruby Ashbourne Serkis (Becoming Elizabeth) as Alice.
In a character description by the streaming service, Hughes plays a lawyer with an “acute sense of justice and one of the few honest men in a world beset with scheming and plots.“ Shardlake works for Thomas Cromwell (Bean) the “dangerous and all-powerful right-hand man to Henry VIII. Despite Shardlake’s unwavering loyalty to Cromwell and the Crown, his position in society is unfavoured due to his appearance, as a person living with scoliosis during the Tudor period, suffering the indignity of being abused as a 'crookback' wherever he turns.“
The full synopsis reads: “Drenched in mystery, suspense and deception, this four-part drama, based on the first novel in Sansom’s series, is an eerie whodunnit adventure, set in 16th century England during the dissolution of the monasteries. Shardlake’s sheltered life as a lawyer is turned upside down when Cromwell instructs him to investigate the murder of one of his commissioners at a monastery in the remote town of Scarnsea.
“The commissioner was gathering evidence to close the monastery and it is now imperative for Cromwell’s own political survival that Shardlake both solves the murder and closes the monastery. He leaves Shardlake in no doubt that failure is not an option. Cromwell insists that he is accompanied by cocky, good-looking Jack Barak (Boyle) and Shardlake is left unsure whether Barak is an assistant, or Cromwell’s spy. At Scarnsea, the duo are met with hostility, suspicion and paranoia by the monks who fear for their future and will seemingly stop at nothing to preserve their order.“
Rounding out the cast is Peter Firth as Norfolk, Matthew Steer as Goodhap, Brian Vernel as Brother Mortimus, Irfan Shamji as Brother Guy, David Pearse as Brother Edwig, Miles Barrow as Brother Gabriel, Mike Noble as Bugge and Kimberley Nixon as Joan.
Shardlake is written by Stephen Butchard (Baghdad Central, The Last Kingdom). The series is executive produced by George Ormond and Mark Pybus for The Forge, Stevie Lee for Runaway Fridge, and Lee Mason for Disney+ EMEA. Justin Chadwick (The Other Boleyn Girl) is directing the series with John Griffin as producer.
Speaking about the adaptation, Lee Mason, director of scripted content at Disney+ said: “C.J. Sansom’s novels have captivated millions of readers across the globe, and we’re thrilled to be joining forces with The Forge and Runaway Fridge, introducing the exceptional Arthur Hughes as Matthew Shardlake to fans and new audiences alike. Stephen and Justin’s vision for this chilling tale of murder, mystery and politics promises to thrill and delight, and joins a growing catalogue of unmissable original drama for adults on the service.”
Butchard, writer, added: “Writing Shardlake has been nothing short of a joy. C.J. Sansom’s novels are incredibly rich in story, character and history; full of intrigue, excitement, cruelty and compassion – and at the centre of it all is Matthew Shardlake, a hero like no other. Although these stories are set in Tudor England, the themes absolutely engage and resonate with today’s world. Hundreds of years may have past – but humankind and what makes us tick has changed little.”