Masterpiece Contemporary: Endgame

Masterpiece Contemporary: Endgame

Sun, 10/25/2009 - 9:00pm

Credit: ©Target Entertainment for Masterpiece

Political drama errupts in South Africa as the nation teeters on the brink of civil war.

In the mid 1980s, no nation’s future looked as hopeless as South Africa’s. Diehard supporters of the apartheid regime were pitted against a black national liberation movement that was edging toward all-out armed rebellion. But, on the brink of catastrophe, a miracle occurred. Thanks to an improbable mediator, a series of risky and secret talks began.

Masterpiece Contemporary presents the drama, violence, and pathos behind this real-life political thriller on Endgame, the season premiere, airs Sunday, October 25 at 9 p.m. on WXXI-TV (DT21.1/cable1011/cable11).

Directed by Pete Travis (Vantage Point),Endgame's international cast includes Best Actor Oscar-winner and Emmy-nominee William Hurt (Kiss of the Spider Woman, Damages) as Professor Will Esterhuyse, leader of an unofficial delegation representing white South Africa, and Chiwetel Ejiofor (American Gangster, Kinky Boots) as Thabo Mbeki, who heads a group of exiles from the African National Congress (ANC). Mbeki went on to become the second democratically elected president of South Africa, succeeding Nelson Mandela.

Jonny Lee Miller (Masterpiece’s Emma, Eli Stone, Trainspotting) stars as the facilitator who brings these bitter antagonists together; Michael Young, the head of public affairs and communication for Consolidated Goldfields. Although the firm has long benefited from apartheid, Young argues that economic and political chaos will result if the racist system is not dismantled as soon as possible. Derek Jacobi (The Old Curiosity Shop, Gosford Park) plays the chairman of Consolidated Goldfields, Rudolf Agnew, who agrees to fund Young’s quixotic mission.

Also appearing are Mark Strong (Body of Lies) as Dr. Niel Barnard, the Machiavellian director of South Africa’s National Intelligence Agency, and Clarke Peters (The Wire) as Nelson Mandela, imprisoned by South Africa since 1962 and by the 1980s internationally famous as a symbol of apartheid oppression.

Endgame opens as Young is smuggled into the black township of Soweto in the back of a car in his first attempt to make contact with the ANC. Though he has to flee an angry mob, he perseveres, struggling to line up a handful of major players on either side. Then he arranges for the wary negotiators to meet regularly at a secluded country estate in England, in secret and far from the turmoil of South Africa — except that the South African intelligence service is following his every move.

The risk increases as intelligence chief Barnard and South African president P.W. Botha (Timothy West, Bleak House) cynically use Young’s talks to drive a wedge between the ANC and Nelson Mandela, whom they’ve engaged in a parallel set of secret negotiations with the aim of breaking the solidarity of the government’s opponents.

It’s a high-stakes chess match, with canny moves and countermoves in pursuit of victory in the suspenseful endgame to apartheid.