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Tim Pigott-Smith plays King Charles III onstage at the Music Box Theater. (Photo: Getty Images)

Just how well do you know the British royal family? That’s the question explored in King Charles III, a new 90-minute drama being made by Masterpiece on PBS and the BBC for U.S. television.

Based on last year’s Tony-nominated Broadway play of the same name, it speculates about a possible “future history” when Prince Charles ascends to the throne after the death of his mother Queen Elizabeth II, and brings about a constitutional crisis in the U.K. by demanding a larger role in matters of state.

As well as Charles, the play features real-life characters such as his sons William and Harry, his wife Camilla and daughter-in-law Kate, and even a fleeting appearance by his former wife Princess Diana, and has even been compared to Shakespeare for its depiction of political turmoil and the corrupting effect of power.

The TV version is unlikely to stray far from the play’s vision: according to Deadline, theater director Rupert Goold will direct, while writer Mike Bartlett will adapt his own play, and Tim Pigott-Smith, the actor famous for his roles in Doctor Who, The Jewel in the Crown, and Downton Abbey, will reprise his lead role for the small screen.

King Charles III is an ingenious play that promises to be as riveting on television as it was onstage,” said executive producer Rebecca Eaton during a panel at the Television Critics’ Association (TCA) Press Tour yesterday (July 28). “It’s a play set in the near future, but with Shakespeare never far away”.

The movie is due to air on Masterpiece in 2017.

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By Kat Sommers
Kat is a freelance writer for Anglophenia.