Hugh Laurie racks up ‘Roadkill’ in new PBS ‘Masterpiece’ drama

'Roadkill' casts 'House' alum as questionable British official

Iain De Caestecker (left) and Hugh Laurie star in “Roadkill on Masterpiece,” premiering Sunday on PBS (check local listings).

If Hugh Laurie’s latest television role echoes his long run as Dr. Gregory House, he maintains he didn’t intend it.

The British talent portrays an ethically sketchy politician in “Roadkill on Masterpiece,” a BBC-produced drama debuting on the PBS anthology series Sunday, Nov. 1 (check local listings). Written by the esteemed David Hare (“Plenty”), the four-part tale finds Laurie’s Peter Laurence barely keeping the approval of England’s prime minister (Helen McCrory, “Peaky Blinders”) after he wins a libel suit. He also must deal with his wife’s (Saskia Reeves) and daughters’ (Millie Brady and “Elementary’s” Ophelia Lovibond) discovery of his affair with a librarian (Sidse Babett Knudsen, “Borgen”). Iain De Caestecker,(“Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”) also stars.

The wry Laurie appreciates exposing Laurence’s nature slowly in “Roadkill.” He says, “it may actually be in my nature anyway to not reveal too much too soon. I think it has become a sort of necessity nowadays, in the selling of a story, that you have to declare to the audience what your story’s going to be. Sometimes in the form of a trailer, you have to say, ‘Good guy, bad guy, traitor, existential threat’ … whatever it is. You have to lay out your wares very quickly.

Hugh Laurie stars in “Roadkill on Masterpiece,” premiering Sunday on PBS (check local listings).

“It was a challenge, but also a luxury, to have the four hours in which to gradually reveal all of these characters,” notes Laurie. “I think it is an amazing cast, and it was wonderful to watch all of them — under Michael’s (Keillor) direction, and with David’s wonderful script — reveal themselves piece by piece, rather than coming in with a trombone announcing themselves from the start.”

Playwright Hare reflects of developing the “Roadkill” plot, “There used to be something called disgrace. When a politician did something wrong and was caught doing something wrong, there was usually meant to be calamity. Something was meant to follow, and now, nothing follows. I wanted to write about that, 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.”

As for any comparisons between House and Laurence, Laurie reasons, “There are some things I can’t do anything about. I am the same height as Gregory House, and I am a little bit older. (With) anything I do, there are going to be moments or expressions or certain inflections that will possibly cause someone to remember something. Every actor goes through that. That’s the nature of the thing. I feel as if I have had the opportunity to play what is, to me, a wonderful range of characters … all of whom I like and enjoy.”

Jay Bobbin

Jay Bobbin

Jay Bobbin has decades of experience covering the television and movie businesses, winning Tribune Media Services’ Crown Jewel Award in 2008 for his performance in the company. Over those many years of interviewing and writing, he has spoken with everyone from Robert De Niro and John Travolta to Paul McCartney and Tony Bennett … from Meryl Streep and Julie Andrews to Taylor Swift and Carrie Underwood.

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