Hugh Laurie climbs politics’ greasy pole in ‘Roadkill’ on PBS’ MASTERPIECE– it’s beyond satire

 Is a political thriller overkill right now? Does it cut too close to the bone knowing that it’s the story of a politician trying to get away with everything? That’s Roadkill on MASTERPIECE, starring Hugh Laurie premiering on November 1 on PBS.

Hugh Laurie in the PBS “Masterpiece” political drama, “Roadkill” (Photo: Courtesy of The Forge/PBS)

 Filled with big twists, Roadkill is a four-episode original political shock-and-awe story written by David Hare. Hugh Laurie (of House, Veep, The Night Manager fame) plays a shameless British Conservative government minister Peter Laurence. He is a self-made man who has risen to the heights of the British government, but there are skeletons in his closet, among them a corruption lawsuit, a mistress, a love child, and a suspicious prime minister in the mix. Of course his messy affairs are of interest to investigative journalists.

 Laurie describes the show as “a political drama about the price of success in the political realm. It’s pretty unforgiving.” His brash character—an utterly charismatic Conservative politician with working-class roots—is put through his paces by ambitious staffers, unscrupulous rivals, and the women of his family as he climbs what Laurie describes as “the greasy pole” of politics.

 Hugh Laurie is a master of subtlety in his performance, and he gives a nod to American politicians for their style. He said, “It’s always sort of the challenge to let an audience find something rather than present it to them on a plate. I feel some sympathy for American politicians who are sort of going through a television meat grinder on a daily basis and appearing — or they were at least at one time appearing in front of vast rallies where a more operatic style is called for. We (British) are a smaller country in many, 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 presently it to them in bold captions, which is, by the way, my instinct. I am doing it now. I am talking very too loudly and gesturing far too much, and I will probably lose my British passport for that because it is un-English.  I am not supposed to do it.”

Laurie was very animated during the PBS interview session for the show with journalists from the Television Critics Association (TCA) interviewing him via Zoom. He showed glee in talking about the many layers of the characters in the show. “They reveal themselves piece by piece rather than coming in with a trombone announcing themselves from the start.”

 Does Laurie think politicians have to be actors? Hugh said, “I suppose since television became the predominant instrument by which you disseminate any idea about anything, whether you’re trying to sell Coca-Cola or a presidential candidate, I suppose yes, to a degree politicians have to be not necessarily actors, but at least aware of the theatrical element of what it is they trying to do. There are certain skills that they have to acquire.”

 A question to David Hare, creator/writer/executive producer of Roadkill, about his story being not so outrageous or bizarre nowadays, triggered a great response. Hare said, “I think it is true that satire is having a very difficult time these days because clearly the outrageous populism of the leaders in Brazil, say, or in your country (U.S.A.) or in my country (Great Britain), they are beyond satire.”

 Tune in MASTERPIECE Roadkill starring Hugh Laurie, November 1, 2020 on PBS.


Margie Barron has written for a wide variety of outlets including Gannett newspapers, Nickelodeon, Tiger Beat and 16 Magazine, Fresh!, Senior Life, Production Update, airline magazines, etc. Margie is also proud to have been half of the husband & wife writing team Frank & Margie Barron, who had written together for various entertainment and travel publications for more than 38 years.