Howards End

sun­day / BBC1

TV Times - - Contents - SUN­DAY / BBC1 / 9.00Pm Caren Clark

I love a lav­ish pe­riod drama and this new adap­ta­tion of the EM Forster novel def­i­nitely fits the bill. Its stars Matthew Mac­fadyen and Hay­ley Atwell talk to us about the tale of ro­mance and class con­flict – just the thing for win­try nights…

At the glo­ri­ously old-fash­ioned Lon­don restau­rant Simp­son’s in the Strand, TV Times has stepped back into the past.

We’re on set for BBC1’S lav­ish four-part adap­ta­tion of Howards End, EM Forster’s 1910 novel about class di­vi­sion, and we’re watch­ing Hay­ley

Atwell and a hir­sute

Matthew Mac­fadyen din­ing in Ed­war­dian garb as so­cial ten­sions sim­mer.

The drama cen­tres on Hay­ley’s char­ac­ter, for­ward-think­ing in­tel­lec­tual Mar­garet

Schlegel, whose fam­ily be­comes em­broiled with that of wealthy Henry

Wil­cox, played by Matthew.

Mar­garet forges a friend­ship with Henry’s beloved wife Ruth (Ju­lia Or­mond), who adores her coun­try home Howards End, then, fol­low­ing a tragedy, Henry and Mar­garet grow closer.

How­ever, a dark chain of events that also draws in the Sch­legels’ lower-class friend Leonard Bast (Joseph Quinn) causes con­flict.

Here, Rip­per Street star Matthew, 43, and Agent Carter’s Hay­ley, 35, re­veal all…

How would you de­scribe the char­ac­ters you play?

Hay­ley: Mar­garet is an ec­cen­tric char­ac­ter and has a won­der­ful warmth. Al­though she’s an in­de­pen­dent thinker, she’s dis­il­lu­sioned be­cause she feels she can talk about so­cial af­fairs, but not do any­thing about them. She’s search­ing for her place in the world. Matthew: Henry’s one of those manly men who isn’t prone to bouts of in­tro­spec­tion or navel­gaz­ing or talk­ing about feel­ings.

He’s con­fi­dent and pig-headed. What’s their re­la­tion­ship like? Matthew: Henry doesn’t have the tools that Mar­garet has to deal with the com­plex sit­u­a­tions that arise; he gets fright­ened. They’re prob­a­bly not a nat­u­ral match. Hay­ley: They have a dif­fer­ent set of val­ues and it be­gins as some­thing that isn’t ra­tio­nal and she doesn’t understand it her­self be­cause she has self-aware­ness and he’s emo­tion­ally con­sti­pated, but she ul­ti­mately finds that en­dear­ing be­cause his in­ten­tions are good.

How im­por­tant is class to the drama? Matthew: Hugely.

It’s about sex, money, power and how peo­ple op­er­ate in so­ci­ety – and that doesn’t go out of fash­ion, does it? Hay­ley: It brings up some in­ter­est­ing ques­tions be­cause you have cap­i­tal­ists with a drive for power and peo­ple at the lower end who know their place. Mar­garet wants ev­ery­one to con­nect so things even­tu­ally be­come class­less.

An­thony Hop­kins and Emma Thomp­son played Henry and Mar­garet in the 1992 film of the book. Did you have any qualms about step­ping into their shoes? Hay­ley: No, but I wrote an email to Emma, who played my mum in [2008 film] Brideshead Re­vis­ited, and said, ‘They are do­ing the im­pos­si­ble be­cause you are the de­fin­i­tive Mar­garet.’ But she told me not to watch any­one else do­ing it and gave me some won­der­ful ad­vice. I didn’t feel daunted – it’s an amazing op­por­tu­nity and we feel safe walk­ing a well-trod path.

Matthew: Yes, I think you only ever feel thrilled to be do­ing the part and if won­der­ful peo­ple have played it be­fore it’s com­fort­ing to fol­low their foot­steps.

And fi­nally, Matthew, we have to ask about your beard

– is it all your own?!

Matthew: Ha ha!

Well in the early days it wasn’t as lus­trous as now so I spent a lot of time in the make-up chair be­cause they had to help it along with in­di­vid­ual hairs at­tached with glue. But af­ter film­ing, the beard is com­ing off. My chil­dren are get­ting wor­ried about it!

It’s about sex, money, power – and that doesn’t go out of fash­ion, does it? Matthew Mac­fadyen

Howards End

Em Forster’s clas­sic novel Worlds col­lide: a tense fam­ily din­ner…

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