TNT’s new Bard-as-rock-star drama Will takes that “dusty thing in history books” called William Shakespeare and drags him “kicking and screaming” into this century, says Laurie Davidson, the just-graduating-from-school actor who plays the young playwright.
Asked at TCA about his models for this Shakespearean interpretation, the British actor answered, “Mick Jagger and David Bowie.” After all, he noted, playwrights in the Bard’s day were “the rock stars.”
Series creator Craig Pearce called it a “brilliant thing” that the series deals with the “lost years” of Shakespeare’s life, describing him as “the most famous person in the world that no one knows anything about, except a few facts.” That gives series creators a certain latitude, Pearce said, dismissing biographies that have been written covering Shakespeare’s younger years as “just someone’s opinion.”
Elizabeth helmer Shekhar Kapur, who directed the Will pilot, said he grew up hating Shakespeare and, when he only recently learned how of-the-people the the theater-going experience was in Shakespeare’s day, asked Pearce, “How the f*ck did intellectuals usurp theater?”
“Theater back then was like punk rock,” Pearce, longtime writing partner of filmmaker Baz Luhrmann, explained to reporters in the TCA ballroom. “It was a completely revolutionary form of entertainment, something for the masses, and…was really rapidly evolving.” During performances, patrons were eating, drinking and even “fornicating,” Pearce said. If they liked the production they cheered, if they did not, they “burned the place down.”
TNT calls the series a period piece told in “a bold, contemporary style and played to a modern soundtrack,” exposing “all of Shakespeare’s recklessness, lustful temptations and tortured brilliance.” Pearce wrote the script and executive produces with Kapur, Alison Owen (Elizabeth) and Debra Hayward (Love Actually), as well as Vince Gerardis, Howard Braunstein and Louise Rosager. The project was previously set up at HBO and once had a straight-to-series order at Pivot.