Ready to watch Benedict Cumberbatch’s comeback to TV? We are, just because it’s Benedict Cumberbatch. Yum.
He stars in a limited five-episode show called Patrick Melrose, premiering on Saturday. The Showtime series is based on five books written by Edward St. Aubyn that were loosely based on the experiences of his childhood into adulthood.
The story tracks the British character’s life through three countries, starting off with his abusive childhood in the south of France. As Patrick grows up into adulthood, he is burdened with an ongoing substance abuse problem while living in New York. He makes his way back to Britain to start recovery and get his life back on track.
SheKnows attended an Emmys For Your Consideration panel in late April in Los Angeles with the cast of Patrick Melrose, and luckily, we were able to gather all of the important things you need to know before watching the new Showtime series. Let’s get started!
Book series to TV series
For anyone who has read the Patrick Melrose series, the show will take some liberties with the timeline, so be prepared for things to be not exactly the same as you experienced them as a reader. However, all five books are represented by one episode each.
“The first book is actually the second episode; we changed the order of the first two books. So, you go back in time and it’s almost an origin story, so you see the effect of the parenting and then you find out more about the parenting,” series writer David Nicholls shared. “One great thing about that is every episode is completely different.”
At the panel, Cumberbatch was asked what drew him to the story of Patrick Melrose.
“The books, the books, the books. Reading the books,” he explained. “This man has had this incredibly impossible job of bringing some of the richest, greatest prose of the 21st century into dialogue.”
While he’s always loved the books, it was Reddit that actually got Cumberbatch the job during an Ask Me Anything event in 2013.
“I was asked countlessly what I wanted to do next. I [answered] I would love to play Hamlet and I would love to play Patrick Melrose,” he said. “It filtered back to my agent and to Twitter. I had a meeting with the producers almost immediately.”
Joining Cumberbatch in the cast is Jennifer Jason Leigh, who plays Patrick’s mother, Eleanor, and Hugo Weaving, who plays Patrick’s dark and abusive father, David. Viewers will also see a cameo by Allison Williams, who pops up as a potential love interest for Patrick during his time in New York.
The series covers some dark topics, including incest, drug addiction and depression, but viewers will find themselves laughing even at uncomfortable moments.
“What an incredible arc for an actor to play. It’s the idea of being able to travel along that trajectory, and it encompasses so much. It focuses on wit and intelligence, and it goes beyond that. It goes to universals of abuse, of addiction, of recovery, of fatherhood — and also a son becoming a father and a husband.”
This is a Benedict Cumberbatch we’ve never seen before on screen. Sure, we’ve seen him in dramatic roles and comedic roles, but the Patrick Melrose character encompasses both. He’s falling down the rabbit hole of darkness while trying to find the right upper and downer to level his moods.
Benedict explained how he kept track of all of his character’s major drug moments.
“First and foremost, I had Teddy [author Edward St. Aubyn] to help me with understanding the psychological and physiological effects of those drugs. It was a process of simulating that behavior,” he said. “There was a point where I would draw a chart of… if these cocktails were hitting the Quaaludes and he’s just thrown up the speed. He’s vomited. It’s really quite complicated what is in his system at any point in time — a base load of heroin, a high note of cocaine. How to measure all of that was choreographed pretty specifically.”
More to come?
Big Little Lies teased us by being a limited series last year but found a way to come back for a second season. Will Patrick Melrose pull the same move?
“That’s probably a Showtime question, but there are only five books and there are only five episodes,” Benedict said, laughing. “Teddy is not much older than the last time we see him in the last book, so we might have to wait another 150 years for another season. That might be beyond most of us.”
Patrick Melrose premieres Saturday at 9 p.m. Eastern on Showtime.