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Horndogs and Englishmen

Hugh Laurie

PBS Masterpiece Theater presents four-part political thriller Roadkill

By Valerie Milano

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Los Angeles, CA (The Hollywood Times) 8/1/20 – When viewed against the current backdrop of pestilence, racism, economic depression and Trumpism, the garden variety graft and sex imbedded in Roadkill goes down easy as light entertainment. American audiences came to love Hugh Laurie as the pill-popping physician in the long runner House. In Roadkill, Laurie plays a womanizing, Conservative minister who has just dodged a corruption scandal and seeks to move his career forward despite the burden of a wild-child daughter with a fondness for coke and casual sex; and the sudden appearance of a long-lost, multi-race, lesbian daughter who happens to reside in prison. Roadkill is a well-written, well-acted political thriller of the old school, anchored by the drollery of Laurie and the pitch-perfect performance of Helen McCrory who portrays the nation’s prime minister.

Hugh Laurie and Helen McCory star in David Hare’s Roadkill premiering November 1 on PBS’ Masterpiece. (Photo: PBS)

The action is set in a fictitious Britain where the Conservative Party tenuously holds power, and spends most of its time in maintaining that power rather than doing the country’s business. Roadkill idelivers  nuanced acting from top to bottom and whip-smart dialogue. It’s enough to forgive some dodgy plot twists. Do we really believe Laurie’s character would visit a woman’s prison to verify the existence of his illegitimate daughter so soon after a high-profile court case where he sued a national newspaper for libel? Then again, considering current events, maybe no act of stupidity is too far-fetched.

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Roadkill is expertly crafted political farce that plugs directly into today’s headlines. It also has the cliff-hanger appeal to bring audiences back for more.

David Hare (Photo: Joel C Ryan/Invision/AP)

During the recent annual PBS press tour, Roadkill writer David Hare talked about how today’s political climate informed the series:

“I think there’s something new in the 21st Century, which is that there is as sort of shamelessness in it. We have a Prime Minister that has been sacked (fired) twice for lying, yet he is [still] the Prime Minister. The idea of shame has disappeared from politics. Your President said that if he shot someone in the middle of 5th Avenue, nobody would be much concerned. So I wanted to write about that really, the change in politics whereby it’s ok to do things and you have a fair chance of getting away with them on the likelihood that you resemble the people who vote for you.”

Hugh Laurie described his approach to his character:

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(Photo: BBC)

“Well, I think the challenge is to let the audience find something rather than present it to them on a plate. I feel some sympathy for the American politicians who are sort of going through a television meat grinder on a daily basis and appearing – or at least at one time – appearing in front of vast rallies where a more operatic style is called for.

We are a smaller country in many ways, in many dimensions. We are a more restrained country in many ways. I think the fun for an actor is to allow the audience an opportunity to decipher things rather than simply present them in bold captions; which is, by the way, my instinct.”

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Valerie Milano is the well-connected Senior Editor and TV Critic at TheHollywoodTimes.today, a website that aggregates showbiz news curated for, and written by, insiders of the entertainment industry. (@HwoodTimes @TheHollywood.Times) Milano, whose extraordinary talents for networking in the famously tight-clad enclave of Hollywood have placed her at the center of the industry’s top red carpets and events since 1984, heads daily operations of a uniquely accessible, yet carefully targeted publication. For years, Milano sat on the board as a chief organizer of the Television Critics Association’s press tours, held twice a year in Beverly Hills and Pasadena. She has written for Communications Daily, Discover Hollywood, Hollywood Today, Television International, and Video Age International, and contributed to countless other magazines and digests. Valerie works closely with the Human Rights Campaign as a distinguished Fed Club Council Member. She also works with GLSEN, GLAAD, Outfest, NCLR, LAMBDA Legal, and the Desert Aids Project, in addition to donating both time and finances to high-profile nonprofits. She has been an active member of the Los Angeles Press Club for a couple of years and looks forward to the possibility of contributing to the future success of its endeavors. Milano’s passion for meeting people extends from Los Feliz to her favorite getaway, Palm Springs. There, she is a member of the Palm Springs Museum of Art and a prominent Old Las Palmas-area patron.