Britannia: What you need to know about the ancient history drama

Available on NOW TV, Jez Butterworth’s comic drama about the Roman invasion of Britain is a riotous exploration of what life might have been like here two thousand years ago.

By Pippa Shawley Published: 26 February 2020 - 5.16pm
Drama NOW TV

Zoe Wanamaker

Sky UK

Watch Britannia on NOW TV

Written by renowned playwright Jez Butterworth (Jerusalem, The Ferryman), the series tells the story of the Roman Imperial Army’s attempt to crush the Celtic heart of Britannia, a land populated by wild women and powerful druids.  

What is it about? 

Starting in 43AD, the Romans, led by General Aulus Plautius (David Morrissey), are determined to succeed where Julius Caesar previously failed to conquer this land on the far edge of the empire. 

Britannia, however, is a mysterious land inhabited by rebellious tribes who won’t yield easily to the new invaders. Arch-rivals Queen Antedia (Zoe Wanamaker) and Kerra (Kelly Reilly), daughter of the King of the Cantii, must put aside their differences to fight their mutual enemy. 

The second series moves the story on two years, where General Aulus is battling his way through Britannia, assisted by Celtic Queen Amena (Annabel Scholey). 

The only hope for the tribes who rebel against Roman rule is 14-year-old Cait, a member of the Cantii group, who is being trained by outcast Druid, Divis (Nikolaj Lie Kaas). He was the only person who foresaw the Roman invasion, and is determined to defeat them with his young protégée.  

However, an epic battle of wills between Druid brothers Veran and Harka (both played by Mackenzie Crook) divides the Druids and threatens to destroy the resistance to the Romans. 

David Morrissey as Aulus Sky UK

Who is in it?

David Morrissey (The Missing) stars as Aulus Plautius, tasked with conquering Britannia by Emperor Claudius. Perceptive and shrewd, he specialises in turning foes against each other. 

Kerra, daughter of Cantii king Pellenor (Ian McDiarmid), is played by Kelly Reilly (True Detective). Her headstrong nature has exacerbated the rift between the Cantii and Regni tribes. Afraid of antagonising the gods, her father treats her like a prisoner in her own home.

Detectorist star Mackenzie Crook appears as both Druid brothers Veran and Harka in the series. Veran is claimed to be 10,000 years old and the second man placed on the planet, and claims to commune with the gods. His brother Harka awakes from the dead in season 2, and seeks revenge on his brother, who he believes has usurped him. 

Bafta nominee Zoe Wanamaker plays Antedia, Queen of the Regni tribe. She is fierce and unforgiving, and believes that hatred is more reliable than trust. After reluctantly marrying off her only son and heir to the Cantii princess Kerra, she feels humiliated and betrayed and is now powered by revenge.

Young Cantii Cait is played by Eleanor Worthington-Cox, whose career took off when she starred in the theatre production of Matilda. Cait should have been initiated into womanhood in a Solstice Eve ceremony, but the destruction of her village by the Romans, which included the death of her sister, prevents this. Now stuck between girl and womanhood, she had no idea that she was at the centre of a prophecy, and that the future of her tribe, Britannia and the Roman Empire depends on her. 

Other cast members include Julian Rhind-Tutt (Harlots) as Phelan, Annabel Scholey (The Split) as Amena, Hugo Speer (Father Brown) and Steve Pemberton (Inside No. 9) who plays Emperor Claudius.

Eleanor Worthington-Cox as Cait Sky UK

Will there be a third series of Britannia?

It was announced in January 2020 that Britannia would return for a third series. According to the press release, “Series three sees a radical transformation in Cait’s journey as the Chosen One with a decision that will tie her to the future of her war-torn people and their ravaged land. Aulus comes under pressure from a new and dark force - otherwise known as his wife, whilst Amena finds herself in a lethal ménage à trois with both of them. Divis gets a new job which he despises, and Veran goes to the underworld and sees the future.”

A release date is yet to be announced.

Watch Britannia on NOW TV.