Is this the most heavyweight television cast in the history of ever?

Arriving December 19, Lightbox’s new historical epic The Hollow Crown is bringing some serious silver screen stars to your little streaming device. Sam Brooks shares a guide on where you know them from and who the heck they’re playing.

There are two things that happen when you watch one of these period dramas with loads and loads of characters. One: you wonder where you know that person from. Two: you wonder who the hell they’re playing in relation to everybody else.

The Hollow Crown is a pretty great and epic Shakespearean (literally, since it is Shakespeare) adaptation, and you’ll need to concentrate. To help you avoid getting distracted on IMDB when you should be following the story, I’m here to answer those ‘who the hell is that guy?’ questions. Aren’t I nice?

(To be honest, you probably know most of these people already actually and there are a LOT of other characters in this show. But all we care about are celebrities, right?)

Benedict Cumberbatch

Where do you know him from?

Cumberbatch is most famous for doing some no-shit-sherlocking on Sherlock, being an angry red dragon in The Hobbit films, being a strange doctor in Doctor Strange, being a sad cousin in August: Osage County and is probably most famous for playing a grey wolf in the immensely successful and high-quality Madagascar films.

Who is he playing?

He’s playing probably the most famous figure from the War of the Roses, Richard III, who is mostly famous for being a right old dick, usurping the throne and being rebelled against during his pretty brief reign. Basically, he had a lot of success during The War of the Roses and ended up dying in battle (spoilers, I guess, but also history). He was the last English King to do so, which… good for him!

Best line from the Wikipedia page?

As for Richard’s physical appearance, most contemporary descriptions bear out the evidence that aside from having one shoulder higher than the other (with chronicler Rous not able to correctly remember which one, as slight as the difference was), Richard had no other noticeable bodily deformity.” ‘No other noticeable bodily deformity’ is the closest thing to an insult that you can get while still being a compliment.

Judi Dench

Where do you know her from?

Kind of everything? But let’s do the laundry list. Being a sassy old lady in Shakespeare in Love, being a sad old lady in Notes on a Scandal, being a commanding old lady in various Bonds, a naughty old lady in Mrs Henderson Presents, a naughty old lady in Nine, a diabetic old lady in Chocolat. You get the gist – Judi Dench has been old longer than you’ve been alive.

Who is she playing?

Cecily Neville, Duchess of York, who is kind of a total boss lady. She’s mother to two Kings of England, which is pretty cool, and did a whole lot to keep her head in a time where people were being executed left, right and centre. She’s also famous because every monarch of England from Henry VIII onwards are her descendants, which becomes less impressive when you find out she had 13 children, but is still quite impressive.

Best line from the Wikipedia page?

“She herself signed her name ‘Cecylle’.” This is the 15th century equivalent of getting a tattoo, I should imagine.

Tom Hiddleston

Where do you know him from?

Dating Taylor Swift, being the internet’s boyfriend circa 2012, saying something mawkish about a charity in his Golden Globes speech and getting laughed at by the internet, some Marvel films.

Who is he playing?

Prince Hal and King Henry V, who are the same person because royalty is weird. Remember how there’s a whole plotline in The Crown about Elizabeth maybe getting a new name now that she’s Queen? That kind of weird. He’s most famous for The Battle of Agincourt and nearly beating France in the Hundred Years War, and also for dying of dysentery, which is gross.

Best line from the Wikipedia page?

“His complexion was ruddy, the face lean with a prominent and pointed nose.” If anybody ever called me ‘ruddy’, I would disintegrate into a pillar of salt. RUDDY? How dare you.

Sophie Okonedo

Where do you know her from?

Okonedo got an Oscar nomination for Hotel Rwanda way back in 2004, but since then she’s been seen in my favourite terrible film Stormbreaker, The Secret Life of Bees which I can only assume is a dark indie spinoff of The Bee Movie, Will Smith bomb After Earth. She is, of course, most famous for her brief role in Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls.

Who is she playing?

She’s playing Margaret of Anjou! She’s on the side of the Lancasters and basically ran the whole ship when her husband had what would now be called a mental breakdown but was probably called something way worse back then. She basically started the War of the Roses, so she might be kind of a dick?

Best line from the Wikipedia page?

Elizabeth Woodville (born ca 1437), later Queen of England as future wife of her husband’s rival, King Edward IV, purportedly served Margaret of Anjou as a maid of honour. However, the evidence is too scanty to permit historians to establish this with absolute certainty: several women at Margaret’s court bore the name Elizabeth or Isabella Grey.” Elizabeth was the Becky/Karen/Tracey (choose applicable) of 1437.

Patrick Stewart

Where do you know him from?

Being an absolutely cool and chill guy on the internet? Being Ian McKellen’s best friend? Saying absolutely ridiculous things on the severely underrated American Dad? Or maybe from Star Trek, X-Men, or any of his numerous Shakespeare stuff. Maybe that.

Who is he playing?

John of Gaunt, who did a lot of stuff! He was a military commander in France, head of government for a time in England, had to flee to Scotland, then went to Spain and became King of Castile, where he died at the very old age of 58. What a dude.

Best line from the Wikipedia page?

“He was called ‘John of Gaunt’ because he was born in Ghent, then rendered in English as Gaunt. When he became unpopular later in life, scurrilous rumours and lampoons circulated that he was actually the son of a Ghent butcher, perhaps because Edward III was not present at the birth. This story always drove him to fury.” So rarely do you see ‘lampoon’ used in its serious and correct way, and so satisfying it is to see it used as such.

Ben Whishaw

Where do you know him from?

Whishaw largely plays men with voices softer than a newborn babe’s breath, so much so that he is the voice of Paddington in Paddington. But you probably know him best from playing the new Q in Skyfall, or if you’re like me and have a passion for old-timey romances, you know him from playing an irrepressibly dreamy John Keats in Bright Star.

Who is he playing?

Richard II, who is not Richard III’s father, although that would really make sense, wouldn’t it? He became king at age ten, changed a whole lot of stuff, lost some wars, executed lots of people and ended up deposed and dead before he turned 40. Being a king was hard back then, you guys!

Best line from the Wikipedia page?

“Though not a warrior king like his grandfather, Richard nevertheless enjoyed tournaments, as well as hunting.” Even kings contain multitudes.


The Hollow Crown comes to Lightbox on December 19, in the meantime, you can watch all the Sherlock you can handle on Lightbox below:

This content, like all television coverage we do at The Spinoff, is brought to you thanks to the excellent folk at Lightbox. Do us and yourself a favour by clicking here to start a FREE 30 day trial of this truly wonderful service.


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