Benedict Cumberbatch Takes On a Bucket-List Role in Showtime's Adaptation of St. Aubyn's Tortured 'Patrick Melrose'

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08 May 2018

SHOWTIME, Premieres May 12, 9 PM ET/PT

By Jacqueline Cutler

You know Patrick Melrose is bound to be a complicated, compelling story when its opening scene where the lead character’s father dies is a day brightener.

Benedict Cumberbatch stars in and executive produces Showtime’s limited series based on Edward St. Aubyn’s semiautobiographical books.

For a literate actor, nothing could be better.

Cumberbatch longed to play the arch, incisive Melrose since reading the books, which chronicle a reprehensible father and a delusional mother. Patrick is a “really unique character who suffers so much and goes on this extraordinary journey from victimhood to survivor,” Cumberbatch says.

Spanning decades and told in five separate episodes, Patrick Melrose premieres Saturday and also stars Jennifer Jason Leigh, Hugo Weaving, Allison Williams, Blythe Danner and Anna Madeley. The second episode, set in the south of France in 1967, features a harrowing revelation that explains much about Patrick.

It’s an unflinching look at monsters behind perfect manners.

“And not just cash-poor landed gentry, but just the inherent snobbery, the treachery, the selfloathing, the cynicism, the patronizing attitudes,” Cumberbatch says, adding that “they were exposed and rightly vilifi ed in the most humorous, entertaining, and at times terrifyingly dark and real ways.”

The pilot, set in 1982, has Patrick leaving London for Manhattan to collect his father’s ashes. It’s a testament to his body’s endurance that it can withstand that much heroin, cocaine, pills and a massive mix of booze.

This, though, is truly a testament to Cumberbatch’s talent. Using his lanky frame to depict the ravages of drugs, he also radiates a deeply interior performance. He portrays a man who endures pretty much every emotion a person can withstand. And it was all so eloquently described in St. Aubyn’s prose that in a Reddit Q&A in 2013, Cumberbatch mentioned that Patrick Melrose was a role on his bucket list. Another was Hamlet, which he did in 2015. “So I can retire after this,” he jokes.
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