Is Hugh Grant’s Edward Keplinger Based on a Real Politician?

Image Credit: Miya Mizuno/HBO

In HBO’s ‘The Regime,’ Kate Winslet takes over the role of an authoritarian leader who slowly starts to lose her grip on reality as the country descends into chaos. Celebrating seven years since she came to power, Elena Vernham is in total control of the political climate, even as the protests start to pick up outside. She turns a blind eye to all that, but things really take a turn for the worse when the leader of the opposition party, Edward Keplinger, becomes a part of the equation. Considering how the show cleverly imparts things from real-life authoritarian regimes, the viewers will naturally want to know about the real-life parallels with Keplinger’s character. SPOILERS AHEAD

Is Hugh Grant’s Edward Keplinger Based on a Real Politician?

Democracy is about choosing the least worst candidate, and it rings true for the people of Elena Vernham’s country. According to the show’s creator, Will Tracy, Keplinger is a moderate form of what Elena slowly turns into. It is less about uplifting the country for him and more about wanting power for himself. While he is considered a better option than Elena, at least in the long run, it doesn’t make him any less narcissistic and power-hungry.

Whatever his flaws may be, Keplinger is still in a prominent position, which makes him one of the most influential people in the country, where the voices of the people are being curbed. His role as the opposition leader allows him to speak for the people, which is why when he is taken prisoner, Elena and her government face a critical blowback from the public.

While Keplinger may not be based on any particular person, being the leader of the opposition and being treated as he is by Elena Vernham is nothing that hasn’t happened in the real world. In fact, authoritarian regimes are known for locking up or even eliminating the opposition that offers a threat to their power. In almost all cases, the opposition leader has the support of the public, who have suffered long enough under the rule of a dictatorship.

The most recent example of an opposition leader facing such a reality and suffering consequences for speaking out against the government is Alexei Navalny. Russia’s opposition leader, Navalny, started out as an activist who spoke out against the corruption in the government and soon gained public favor. However, his criticism of the government made him a target, and soon, he found himself being threatened with arrest for one criminal charge or the other.

When he tried to run in the 2018 Presidential Elections, he was barred from it. By then, he had already been accused of embezzlement and was under investigation for it, which is how he was disqualified for running in any future elections. In 2020, he survived an assassination attempt when he was poisoned with a Novichok nerve agent. He went to Germany for treatment, but when he came back in 2021, he was accused of violating his parole conditions and was thrown into prison.

He died on February 16, 2024, in the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug at the age of 47. Navalny’s arrest and eventual death brought out the public in support of him, who protested against the government for unfairly keeping him in prison. The outpour of love for him on the day of his funeral is a testament to the goodwill he had with the public.

Through Keplinger’s character, ‘The Regime’ presents another side of an authoritarian regime, one that would crush its opposition to show that no voices against it will be tolerated. Even if Keplinger is not an ideal choice, he is still an essential part of the democratic system, and his character represents the power of that role in a fair democratic system.

Read More: HBO’s The Regime: Where is the Political Satire Filmed?