Stephen Poliakoff: From Emmy-winning ‘The Lost Prince’ to current contender ‘Close to the Enemy’

The acclaimed limited series “Close to the Enemy” streamed stateside on Acorn after debuting to rave reviews on the BBC last fall. BAFTA and Emmy nominee Stephen Poliakoff wrote and directed all seven episodes of this compelling drama set in post-WWII London, which is in contention at this year’s Emmy Awards.

“Close to the Enemy” is the story of Captain Callum Ferguson (Jim Sturgess), a British intelligence officer tasked with convincing Dieter (August Diehl), a captured German scientist, to work for the RAF. Among those standing in the way of Callum’s success are his younger brother Victor (Freddie Highmore) suffering from PTSD, a Foreign Office mandarin Harold (Alfred Molina) with his own agenda and American jazz singer Eva (Angela Bassett) with a secret.

Neil Genzlinger (New York Times) characterized “Close to the Enemy” as a “well-made, deftly acted period drama” and noted that, “Mr. Highmore, of ‘Bates Motel,’ is becoming one of the most intriguing actors around.” Sam Wollaston (Guardian) thought the series “has more narrative momentum than some of his work; otherwise, it’s pure Poliakoff: a thoughtful examination of an extraordinary time. It’s bold, and beautiful, haunting, clever and original.” And Ben Lawrence observed, “Poliakoff is perhaps the only true TV auteur we have.”

Poliakoff has pulled double duty on other historical fare including “The Lost Prince,” a fascinating look at the short life of Prince John, the youngest child of Britain’s King George V and Queen Mary, who died of epilepsy at the age of 13 in 1919. This PBS Masterpiece presentation won Best Miniseries in 2003.

In 2013, Poliakoff was in contention with “Dancing on the Edge,” a six-part drama about a black jazz band that pays a heavy price for the fame that it finds in 1930s London. Leading man Chiwetel Ejiofor reaped an Emmy bid while Hollywood screen legend Jacqueline Bisset won her first Golden Globe for her scene-stealing performance as a would-be patron of the band.

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