Benedict Cumberbatch leads an all-star ensemble cast in Sky’s gripping new drama, in which he also serves as producer. Based on the semi-autobiographical series of books by Edward St Aubyn which have been adapted by David Nicholls (One Day); the title character of Patrick Melrose sees Cumberbatch delve headlong into a troubled, brooding Sherlockian persona.
It’s a tale of family dysfunction, outlandish excesses, crippling addiction and forging a life from the ruins of childhood abuse.
Patrick Melrose - played by Benedict Cumberbatch
Hedonist extraordinaire Patrick (Benedict Cumberbatch, Sherlock) is running from his past. He takes any diversion that offers itself to him, be it drugs, alcohol or women. We first meet Patrick in the midst of a crushing heroin addiction, having just learned of the death of his monstrous father. The privileged Patrick has everything one would need to lead the life of a Byronic philandering rake, but behind the playboy veneer lurk the dark secrets of his childhood.
David Melrose - played by Hugo Weaving
Penniless aristocrat David is the epitome of a control freak. A former cavalry officer and doctor, his past life as a promising composer haunts his now empty existence, fueling his need to control and torment those around him. His mantra, “only the best, or go without,” is ironic given that, despite his lofty beginnings, his lavish lifestyle is sustained thanks to his nouveau riche in-laws. While he comes across as cruel, his true capacity for brutality manifests most tragically in his relationship with his son. Versatile English-Aussie, Hugo Weaving, has played everything from ageless elves and red-skulled comic book villains to murderous computer programmes but the part of David Melrose could be his most menacing creation to date.
Eleanor Melrose - played by Jennifer Jason Leigh
From one of the richest families in America, the faded but still striking Eleanor (Jennifer Jason Leigh, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, The Hateful Eight) leads a miserable life. Abused by her callous husband David for the duration of their marriage, she tries to instil in her son Patrick a sense of detachment, creating distance and resentment between them. Her maternal instinct is strong but overshadowed by a life of unhappiness. When she does finally escape from the clutches of David, she abandons Patrick with him, crushing her son and bolstering his downward spiral into depression and drug dependency.
Mary Melrose - played by Anna Madeley
In a rare moment of sobriety Patrick meets his wife, Mary. Long-suffering and steadfast Mary is entrusted with the dark secrets of Patrick’s childhood trauma and together they make a home. Their relationship strains under the normal pressures of family life, with the added drama of Patrick’s relapses into alcoholism and persistent infidelity. The figures of Patrick’s dead father and ailing mother loom large over their relationship and soon Mary is forced to contemplate taking their two sons away, for all their sakes. Anna Madeley and Benedict Cumberbatch have previously appeared together in the BBC’s A Child in Time.
Johnny Hall - played by Prasanna Puwanarajah
Patrick’s best friend, confidante and fellow addict, Johnny (Prasanna Puwanarajah, Doctor Foster) is there to pick Patrick up when he hits rock bottom. Taking a more traditional route than Patrick by following the Narcotics Anonymous programme to completion, Johnny later becomes a psychotherapist. He is the first to learn of the harrowing secret that haunts Patrick’s childhood.
Julia - played by Jessica Raine
Former Call the Midwife lead Jessica Raine swaps her nurse’s uniform for an altogether more alluring guise as Patrick’s close friend and sometime lover, Julia. Feeding both his debauchery and his scepticism, Julia is imperturbable, sardonic and cutting. She might have made the perfect match for Patrick, given better circumstances. Finding marriage intolerably boring compared to her youthful dalliances, Julia seeks to rekindle their romance and unleash her wild side once more.
Nicholas Pratt - played by Pip Torrens
An old Etonian friend of his David’s, Nicholas lingers in Patrick’s life as an unpleasant reminder of his despicable father, long after the latter’s death. Nicholas relishes in his role as moral guardian, frequently offering unsolicited and often unwelcome guidance. Pompous and eloquent, he serves as a reminder of the old-school aristocratic sphere that both the world and Patrick are trying to leave behind. Pip Torrens turn as dedicated Tommy Lascelles in The Crown will no doubt have left a soft spot in the hearts of fans but this latest façade is decidedly less agreeable.
Anne Moore - played by Indira Varma
A guest of his parents during a central moment of his young life, Anne (Indira Varma, who previously portrayed the deliciously devious Ellaria Sand in Game of Thrones) regards Patrick as a beacon of hope in a world of decay. After finding Patrick in distress, Anne makes a promise she can’t keep: to safely take Patrick to his mother. David has other ideas, and this oversight results in both irrevocably changing Patrick’s life and leaving Anne to carry a feeling of regret for the rest of her days.
Bridget Watson Scott - played by Holliday Grainger
Bubbly Holliday Grainger is no stranger to playing confident upstarts, having been both an ugly sister in Cinderella and the titular character in Lady Chatterley’s Lover. We first meet Bridget on the arm of Nicholas, and why she’s with him is immediately apparent. A thrill seeker and obvious social climber, she will quite happily drop whatever man she’s with for a better offer, which she frequently does. This approach actually pays off, she eventually marries into nobility, but you know what they say, money can’t buy you love…or happiness for that matter.
Marianne - played by Allison Williams
Patrick’s well-meaning but unworldly wife sets Patrick up for a dinner with Marianne (Allison Williams; Girls, Get Out) after sensing how excruciating his trip to New York to collect his father’s ashes will be. Unbeknownst to Mary, Patrick and this old university friend are already intimately acquainted and Patrick ultimately seeks more than a comforting conversation in this time of need. Unfortunately for both parties Patrick is in the midst of an immense drug and alcohol rampage. He thinks the glamorous and sophisticated Marianne is the key to his redemption, the problem is, she isn’t.
Nancy - played by Blythe Danner
Patrick’s aunt Nancy represents everything his mother could had been, had she not fallen into his father’s malicious grasp. On a trip to New York, tensions run high when Patrick and his family stay with Nancy. She is a reminder of the suffocating upper class life that he is trying desperately to escape and her presence merely adds to Patrick’s dependency on drugs and causes a rift between him and his wife. With a career spanning over 40 years, Blythe Danner (mother of Gwyneth Paltrow) has been in everything from M*A*S*H to Meet the Parents, her signature dry wit adds credence to the haughtily natured Nancy.
Kettle - played by Celia Imrie
Patrick’s mother-in-law Kettle (Celia Imrie, Calendar Girls), though slightly more palatable than his own mother, certainly has her flaws. Detached and uninterested in either her daughter or her grandchildren, Kettle’s chief interest lies in the inheritance that Patrick and Mary may or may not receive.
Fleur - played by Elizabeth Berrington
A flame-haired, manic addict, Fleur (Elizabeth Berrington, Stella) rubs just about everyone up the wrong way. After meeting Patrick during his stint in rehab, he struggles to shake her off as she tries to spark a friendship with the somewhat exasperated Nicholas Pratt, much to Patrick’s chagrin.
All images courtesy of Sky except where otherwise indicated.
Patrick Melrose begins Sunday 13 May on Sky Atlantic at 9pm and continues on Sundays at the same time.