Dynamite! York plays key role in BBC’s Gunpowder, starring Game Of Thrones hero

17 Oct 2017 @ 6.34 pm
| Entertainment, History

An epic retelling of one of the most explosive moments in British history begins this weekend.

And York has played a leading role in its production.

Gunpowder is a three-part TV drama about the infamous plot to blow up the House of Lords in 1605.

Of course York is the home city of the most notorious plotter, Guy Fawkes, played by Tom Cullen in the BBC One series.

But there’s also a modern-day link, as two York researchers are the historical advisors to the production.

Real historical events

[arve url=”https://youtu.be/BnxVKgw2hjU” title=”BBC trailer for Gunpowder” /]

Gunpowder boasts a starry cast, led by Kit Harington from Game of Thrones and Liv Tyler, who was in Lord of the Rings among many other films.

The series focuses on the chain of events that led up to the attempted assassination of King James – and the lives of the men involved in the plot.

But the show wouldn’t have been possible without Hannah Greig and John Cooper from the University of York, who acted as its official historical advisors.

“We are very familiar in modern-day culture with the name Guy Fawkes, particularly here in York where he was born, but perhaps less familiar with the lives and motivations of his fellow plotters,” said Hannah, from the university’s history department.”

One of their roles is to fact check and spot historical mistakes in the script.

But they also use their knowledge of the period to help “the story to reach the screen in a way that is meaningful to the audience and extends public knowledge of real historical events”.

Liv Tyler as Anne Vaux in Gunpowder

Bringing story to life

The Gunpowder Plot is set against a backdrop of a country at war with Catholic Spain, English Catholic persecution, and a new Scottish King on the throne of England.

The BBC drama focuses on the driving force behind the plot, Robert Catesby, a Warwickshire landowner who wants to see the king overthrown and replaced with Princess Elizabeth.

Kit Harington, who plays Catesby, is a real-life descendant of the lead plotter – the actor’s full name is Christopher Catesby Harington.

Game of de-Thrones… Kit Harington stars as Catesby

The plot, and subsequent failure, became the stuff of legend, retold every November 5th as part of Bonfire Night celebrations for more than 400 years.

John, also from York University’s history department, said: “It was a great opportunity to work with Kudos productions in bringing this famous story to life for the small screen.

“We were able to ask and suggest potential answers to the motivations of these men at a time in our history were risk, threat, and fear were part of daily life.”

A starry cast for the BBC One mini series

He added:

What you see on screen are all of the choices that producers, writers, directors, and actors have made in order to tell an engaging story.

Dr Greig and I were brought in to present the historical choices that the production team had, and ultimately to empower them to make decisions that are appropriate for their story to avoid the post-production challenge of trying to rectify any mistakes.

The series, which was filmed in several locations around Yorkshire including Leeds and Bradford, will begin on Saturday (October 21) on BBC One at 9.10pm.