HAYLE & HEARTY Sun­day night drama is a sexed up clas­sic

The People - - NEWS FEATURES & - Karen Roc Rock­ett

HAYLEY Atwell will set pulses rac­ing tonight in the BBC’s sexed-up ver­sion of the clas­sic Howards End. The cos­tume drama aims to build on the suc­cess it had with bodice-rip­per Poldark, which was a huge Sun­day-night rat­ings hit. The four-parter, which is based on EM Forster’s 1910 novel and di­rected by Het­tie MacDon­ald, has also been given a faster pace and a more mod­ern feel. Hayley, 35, plays lead char­ac­ter Mar­garet Sch­legel – but un­like many lit­er­ary hero­ines, as Hayley says, Mar­garet “is no damsel in dis­tress”. Fol­low­ing in the foot­steps of Emma Thomp­son, who starred in the 1992 Mer­chant Ivory film with An­thony Hop­kins, could have been daunt­ing. But Hayley said they were keen to make the new se­ries “real” and not “stiff”. Still, ex­pect plenty of blush­ing, beau­ti­ful cos­tumes and looks of long­ing. Hayley, who has starred in his­tor­i­cal drama The Pil­lars of the Earth and Marvel’s Cap­tain Amer­ica films, said: “Read­ing the script, the char­ac­ters just be­came strong on the page and they felt very clearly well-de­fined and com­plex, equal in their own voices. I found these char­ac­ters fas­ci­nat­ing, I wanted to know more about them. It was a ‘yes’ for me straight away.

“Mar­garet at the be­gin­ning is con­tent with her life, loves her home and fam­ily, but there’s rest­less­ness and self-doubt. She searches for an­swers and con­stantly eval­u­ates if she’s liv­ing a good life, mak­ing the most of her po­si­tion to ef­fect change. She’s quite a rare woman in her time, in­de­pen­dent but pro­gres­sive.”

The suc­cess of shows like Poldark and ITV’s Vic­to­ria proves view­ers can­not get enough of cos­tume dra­mas with plenty of class con­flict and ro­mance thrown in for good mea­sure.

Os­car-win­ning writer Ken­neth Lon­er­gan, who penned Manch­ester by the Sea, has adapted the novel for TV and man­aged to make it more ac­ces­si­ble. And Forster’s themes of so­cial change, fam­ily, class and tech­no­log­i­cal ad­vances make it as rel­e­vant now as ever.

Howards End fol­lows the fate of three fam­i­lies: the in­tel­lec­tual Sch­legels, the wealthy Wil­coxes and the work­ing class Basts.

Matthew Mac­fadyen, of Rip­per Street fame, plays Hayley’s love in­ter­est, the rich but rigid Henry Wil­cox. But will they find love across the strict class di­vides of Ed­war­dian Eng­land? Tune in to find out...

The first episode of Howards End is on tonight

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