Les Misérables | MASTERPIECE | Starting Sunday, April 14 at 9< < Back to
The greatest novel. The greatest adaptation.
Dominic West, David Oyelowo and Lily Collins
star in Victor Hugo’s epic tale, scripted by Andrew Davies on MASTERPIECE
Sundays, April 14 – May 19, 2019
A blockbuster novel for over 150 years comes vividly to life in award-winning screenwriter Andrew Davies’ multi-layered retelling of Les Misérables by Victor Hugo. This enthralling television event (not a musical) airs in six episodes on MASTERPIECE, Sundays, April 14 – May 19, 2019 on PBS.
Dominic West (The Affair, The Wire) stars as Jean Valjean, the most famous fugitive in literature, with David Oyelowo (Selma, Small Island) as his relentless pursuer, Javert. Lily Collins (Rules Don’t Apply; Love, Rosie) appears as the tragic seamstress, Fantine; Ellie Bamber (Nocturnal Animals) plays her adolescent daughter, Cosette; Olivia Colman (The Favourite) and Adeel Akhtar (Unforgotten) are Cosette’s cruel overseers, the Thénardiers; and Josh O’Connor (The Durrells in Corfu) is the student and reluctant revolutionary Marius, who falls in love with Cosette at first sight.
Joining the extensive cast are David Bradley (Game of Thrones, Harry Potter) as Marius’ formidable grandfather, Monsieur Gillenormand, and Derek Jacobi (Gladiator, Last Tango in Halifax) as the kindly Bishop of Digne, who rescues Valjean at his lowest ebb.
One of the longest and most engaging novels ever written, with a plot that is as relevant today as in the socially tumultuous 19th century, Les Misérables is a challenging story to condense. But in a triumph of scripting, MASTERPIECE veteran screenwriter Davies (Pride & Prejudice, Bleak House and more than a dozen other productions) preserves Hugo’s intricate plotting, striking historical vignettes, powerful themes, and evocative characterizations, producing an epic television experience that is worthy of the original novel.
Les Misérables opens after the Battle of Waterloo in 1815, which saw Napoleon’s final defeat by the English and their allies, a quarter of a century after the French Revolution. With Napoleon’s downfall, the French monarchy is restored – and the thwarted ideals of the republic go underground.
For most of that quarter century, Valjean has been serving a sentence of hard labor for stealing a loaf of bread. On his release the same year as Waterloo, he immediately resorts to petty crime, risking re-arrest and a life sentence—a fate deemed a virtual certainty by his former jailer Javert.
After this unpromising start, Valjean begins his difficult journey to redemption. But always lurking in the background is Javert, determined to bring him to justice for breaking parole and robbing a child. Establishing himself under a new name in a provincial town, Valjean seems safe at last. He prospers as a businessman and is eventually appointed mayor. One day, he gives work to a needy young woman, Fantine, who hides the fact that she is the unwed mother of a child named Cosette. As the plot unfolds, the stories of mother and daughter become inextricably entwined with that of the fugitive.
Also tangled into the plot are Monsieur and Madame Thénardier, an abusive innkeeping couple who become Cosette’s guardians. Two of the Thénardiers’ children, Éponine (Erin Kellyman) and Gavroche (Reece Yates), go on to play heroic roles in the Paris Uprising of 1832, which is led by the romantic idealist Enjolras (Joseph Quinn).
The story reaches its climax during the uprising and features an iconic escape scene through the sewers of Paris, which made the underground tunnels one of the most famous engineering marvels in the world.
The first English translation of Les Misérables in 1862 left the French title (meaning “the wretched” or “the dispossessed”) in place. And so it has been known in English ever since, through countless printed editions, plays, musicals, and movies. Writing in 2017, Princeton University scholar and translator David Bellos put Victor Hugo’s masterpiece in context. “Among all the gifts France has given to Hollywood, Broadway and the common reader…, Les Misérables stands out as the greatest by far.”
Les Misérables is a Lookout Point and BBC Studios production for BBC, co-produced with MASTERPIECE. The executive producers are Andrew Davies, Faith Penhale for Lookout Point, Bethan Jones for BBC Studios, Mona Qureshi for BBC One, Rebecca Eaton for MASTERPIECE, Dominic West and David Oyelowo. The producer is Chris Carey. The director is Tom Shankland. The drama was commissioned by Charlotte Moore, Director of BBC Content. Delegate producer for Czar Film and TV is Eurydice Gysel; produced with the support of Screen Flanders and Screen Brussels.
MASTERPIECE and BBC One Announce Esteemed Ensemble Cast for Epic New Event Drama Les Misérables
The cast of Andrew Davies’ six-part drama adaptation of Victor Hugo’s 19th-century classic will be led by Dominic West and David Oyelowo
A Lookout Point and BBC Studios co-production for BBC One and MASTERPIECE on PBS, it is directed by Tom Shankland
Dominic West (The Affair, The Hour, Appropriate Adult) will star as Jean Valjean, and David Oyelowo (Selma, A United Kingdom, Spooks) as Javert, in BBC One’s landmark drama adaptation of Les Misérables.
They are joined in the epic new event drama by Lily Collins (Rules Don’t Apply, Love, Rosie, Tolkien), in the role of Fantine.
The distinguished British cast also includes Adeel Akhtar (The Night Manager, Murdered By My Father, Utopia) and Olivia Colman (Murder On The Orient Express, The Night Manager, Broadchurch) as Monsieur and Madame Thénardier, Ellie Bamber (Nocturnal Animals, Pride And Prejudice And Zombies, The Nutcracker And The Four Realms) as Cosette, Josh O’Connor (The Durrells, God’s Own Country, Ripper Street) as Marius and Erin Kellyman (Raised By Wolves, Uncle, The Coopers Vs The Rest) as Éponine.
Multi award-winning screenwriter Andrew Davies will go back to the original novel and delve deep into the many layers of Hugo’s story, revelling in Jean Valjean and Javert’s cat-and-mouse relationship, against the epic backdrop of France at a time of civil unrest. With a striking intensity and relevance to us today, the novel is testimony to the struggles of France’s underclass and how far they must go to survive. The six-part television adaptation of the renowned book will vividly and faithfully bring to life the vibrant and engaging characters, the spectacular and authentic imagery and, above all, the incredible yet accessible story that was Hugo’s lifework.
Dominic West says: “Jean Valjean is one of the great characters in world literature. His epic journey of redemption is one of the extraordinary roles an actor can take on, and I can’t wait to get stuck in to bringing Andrew’s brilliant adaptation to the screen.”
David Oyelowo says: “To play an iconic role like Javert is any actor’s dream, but to play it as written by Andrew Davies goes beyond my wildest dreams.”
Lily Collins says: “I’m so thrilled to be playing Fantine. She is an iconic character, her tragic story feels as relevant to tell today as when Les Misérables was first published. Andrew’s wonderful dramatisation opens up the character in fresh ways that I’ve never seen before in previous adaptations. And with this amazing cast coming together it really feels like it could be something very special indeed.”
Andrew Davies says: “This is such an intense and gut-wrenching story and I am delighted that this esteemed ensemble of actors will be bringing it to life – led by Dominic West and David Oyelowo in the iconic roles of Jean Valjean and his nemesis Javert. In Valjean, we see the terrifying anger and resentment against society but also the tenderness that is hidden deep in his complex psyche. And in Javert, the ferocious dedication to duty that takes him from obsession to madness.”
Executive Producers will be Andrew Davies, Faith Penhale for Lookout Point, Bethan Jones for BBC Studios, Mona Qureshi for BBC One, Rebecca Eaton for MASTERPIECE, Dominic West and David Oyelowo. The 6×60’ series will be produced by Chris Carey and directed by Tom Shankland. The drama was commissioned by Charlotte Moore, Director of BBC Content.