HAYLE & HEARTY Sunday night drama is a sexed up classic
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