8 JANUARY 2009

There were good tidings for American fans of British drama this week, brought by some of the UK's finest acting talents. Kenneth Branagh, Ian McKellen and Timothy Spall were in LA with news of their exciting new projects, which will air this spring on the US' Public Broadcasting Service.

Kenneth, who shares the big screen with Tom Cruise in Valkyrie, hits US TV in murder mystery Wallander. Three episodes of the drama, in which he plays a troubled Swedish dectective, are scheduled to air in May.

Fellow Shakespearean talant Ian was presenting his offering – a film of his acclaimed portrayal of King Lear. Since 2007 the RSC production has run in London's West End and toured Australia, New Zealand, and California, where demand for tickets was so high they sold for over $1,500 each.

Harry Potter actor Timothy was in town, too, to introduce a new two-part version of Charles Dickens classic Oliver Twist, starring him as Fagin, which goes out in February. At the California presentation event, however, conversation turned to the part he played in the boy wizard series. When asked by a TV critic what appearing in the films had done for his career, veteran character actor Timothy joked: "Ruined it."

He continued: "No, actually it's very unusual. It's one of the smallest parts I've ever played in my life, and wherever I go in the the world it's the one that gets the biggest recognition."

Photo: Getty Images
Kenneth has been introducing the US to his detective series Wallander, which will air in March on PBS
Photo: Getty Images
Meanwhile Timothy Spall was in town to promote a new, two-part Oliver Twist, in which he stars as Fagin
Photo: Getty Images
Ian unveiled a TV version of his acclaimed RSC portrayal of King Lear