Michael Douglas' Benjamin Franklin Brings France Into the American Revolution in a New Apple TV+ Series

Michael Douglas and Noah Jupe star in “Franklin,” premiering April 12, 2024. (Apple TV+)

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Benjamin Franklin, the oldest of America's Founding Fathers, was also arguably the most important in securing American independence, though he never led armies or became president of the United States, like George Washington. He was also 70 years old when he landed on the shores of France in 1776 with the singular goal of convincing the French it was in their best interest to join the war against Britain.

"Franklin," a new limited series from Apple TV+, stars Michael Douglas as the Founding Father who risked his career -- and maybe even his life -- to secure French intervention in the war for America's independence.

This new dramatization of Franklin's most important diplomatic magnum opus is based on Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer Stacy Schiff's 2005 book about his eight years in France, "A Great Improvisation: Franklin, France, and the Birth of America." In it, Schiff ascribes Franklin's success to his ability to display honesty and straightforwardness without being "too honest" or demanding too much from the Palace of Versailles. It was a fine line to walk, especially for a diplomat his age, but Franklin was likely the only man for the job.

Though public sentiment in France was decidedly in favor of joining the war, the court of King Louis XVI was hesitant to get involved. Going to war with Great Britain not only carried a lot of risk, it carried a heavy price tag. Franklin played the part of a rough, New World frontiersmen to the letter, right down to the clothes and fur hat he wore to court. The image he presented, along with his writing and connections, captured the imagination of the French people.

"Franklin outmaneuvered British spies, French informers, and hostile colleagues, all while engineering the Franco-American alliance of 1778 and the final peace with England of 1783," the show's official description reads. "The eight-year French mission stands as Franklin's most vital service to his country, without which America would not have won the Revolution."

Franklin, by virtue of his own scientific renown at the time, also had unique connections with famed personalities in Paris, including "The Barber of Seville" playwright and secret agent Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais (Assaad Bouab, "Call My Agent!"). Beaumarchais would prove essential in getting weapons and money to the rebellion in the years before France officially joined the war.

(Apple TV+)

Franklin was also supported by the French foreign minister, Le Comte de Vergennes (Thibault de Montalembert, "Call My Agent!"), a longtime supporter of American independence who secured permission from King Louis to sell arms and ammunition covertly through French shell companies. This critical aid kept the Continental Army alive long enough to see the crucial victory at Saratoga, which would help Franklin secure the Franco-American alliance necessary to win the war.

"Franklin" also stars Noah Jupe ("A Quiet Place") as Temple Franklin, Eddie Marsan ("Ray Donovan") as John Adams, Daniel Mays ("Line of Duty") as Edward Bancroft and Theodore Pellerin ("There's Someone Inside Your House") as the Marquis de Lafayette.

The series will premiere on Apple TV+ with the first three of eight episodes season on Friday, April 12, followed by one new episode every Friday through May 17, 2024.

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