×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

New BBC, PBS Adaptation of ‘Little Women’ Puts Women Before and Behind the Camera

Little Women” is a highlight of the BBC’s Christmas schedule, and the adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s classic novel appropriately puts women front and center on screen and behind the camera. The team behind the three-parter is helmed by Vanessa Caswill (“Thirteen”), written by Heidi Thomas (“Call the Midwife”), and produced by Susie Liggat (“Fortitude”).

Former HBO executive Colin Callender’s production company Playground made the show and, along with the BBC and PBS Masterpiece, is hoping for a big family hit beginning Tuesday evening in the U.K., although the story resonates particularly strongly with women, executive producer Sophie Gardiner said.

“We sought out the best people for the job, which in this instance resulted in a female-led team,” she said. “Whenever you are casting, you need people who can properly connect and engage with the material. With ‘Little Women’ it seemed the people who connected with it most simply and most clearly and knew what it was really about – how girls become women – were women.”

The series follows the March sisters – Meg (Willa Fitzgerald), Jo (Maya Hawke), Beth (Annes Elwy), and Amy (Kathryn Newton) – while their father (Dylan Baker) is away fighting in the American Civil War. Emily Watson plays family matriarch Marmee and Angela Lansbury the girls’ cantankerous wealthy aunt. Michael Gambon, as the Marches’ neighbor, and Jonah Hauer-King, as his grandson Laurie, round out the cast.

Elwy said the bond between the actresses playing the sisters was incredibly strong from the start of shooting. “It is a bit insane. They know more about me than anybody in the world and I think likewise,” she said. “We started off on Day 1 sharing things that we’d never shared with anybody before, and from that point on there was no point having any less interesting conversations.”

Hawke said she felt a strong connection to the pivotal character of Jo. “When I was offered the role, I didn’t feel any pressure. I’m like, ‘I’m obviously the right person to play this part,’” she said. “It was only after, when I realized everyone else thinks that they’re Jo, too, did I start to feel the weight of the world upon my shoulders.”

Asked whether the male cast members felt outnumbered, she said to laughter and applause at a special screening in London: “We did not pick on the men! We’re not turning the tables or anything. It’s just equality.”

“Little Women” bows on flagship channel BBC One on Tuesday at 8 p.m., with the following two episodes airing on Wednesday and Thursday. PBS Masterpiece has yet to confirm its air date in the U.S.

The series was shot in eastern Ireland, which stands in for Concord, Mass., across four seasons. Nailing the look of 19th-century America was tougher than creating fantastic new worlds from scratch, said producer Liggat, who has worked on such series as “Doctor Who.”

“It was probably the biggest challenge I have ever had to face,” she said. “Planets? Easy, fine. Different galaxies? Fine, because you don’t have people with a native interest in [the location]. But I’d like to think nobody watched this and said, ‘You shot this in Wicklow in August.'”

Tonally, director Caswill has deliberately eschewed the tropes of big period drama in favor of a more immediate and naturalistic feel. “I wanted to feel like we were there and we weren’t objectifying these women, we weren’t sitting back and watching them, and it wasn’t a period drama that felt really grand,” she said. “The camera was sort of the fifth sister, and that was really my approach.”

“Little Women” was one of BBC Drama chief Piers Wenger’s commissions when he joined the pubcaster from Channel 4 last year. “It comes at the end of a year of some truly superb drama featuring women at the very heart of the story: ‘Apple Tree Yard,’ ‘The Moorside,’ and ‘Three Girls,’” he said at the London special screening.

More TV

  • Upcoming Fantasy Shows Like 'Game of

    10 Upcoming Shows to Watch if You're Mourning 'Game of Thrones'

    Millions of people’s Sunday night routines are ruined now that “Game of Thrones” is over, and there are holes in their hearts as big as the hole in The Wall that are aching for a new fantasy series to fill them. Several prequel series are on their way, but as there’s no word on just [...]

  • Game of Thrones Composer Ramin Djawadi

    'Game of Thrones' Composer Ramin Djawadi: 'I'm Still in Denial'

    Since the first season, Ramin Djawadi has composed the music for “Game of Thrones” and created the epic tunes, including the iconic theme song, heard over the series’ most memorable moments. With the series finished, he talked with Zane Lowe on Apple Music’s Beats 1 about his experience on the show and an upcoming 20-city [...]

  • TUPAC SHAKUR black panther collection

    ‘Defiant Ones’ Director to Helm Docuseries on Tupac, Who Assaulted Him in 1993

    Director Allen Hughes, who helmed the award-winning HBO documentary “The Defiant Ones,” has closed a deal with Tupac Shakur’s estate for a five-part docuseries for which he will have full access to all of the late rapper’s released and unreleased recordings, writings and poetry, according to an announcement from his rep. The announcement says the [...]

  • Ellen DeGeneres -- The Ellen Show

    Ellen DeGeneres Extends Daytime Talk Show Run Through 2022

    Ellen DeGeneres is sticking with her daytime talk show. DeGeneres announced Tuesday that she has signed a new deal to continue hosting “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” through 2022. There had been rumors for some time that DeGeneres was planning to leave the show when her current contract was up in 2020, something she leaned into [...]

  • How YouTube Is Trying to Get

    How YouTube Is Trying to Get Will Smith His First-Ever Emmy Nomination (EXCLUSIVE)

    YouTube could be the key to Will Smith finally earning a Primetime Emmy nomination — or win. The superstar Formerly Known as the Fresh Prince has been nominated for two Academy Awards, five Golden Globes and one Screen Actors Guild Award, and has won four Grammys (out of eight nominations). Yet a Primetime Emmy nomination [...]

  • Carpool Karaoke with Celine Dion on

    James Corden Gets Celine Dion to Sing 'Baby Shark,' Sail the Vegas Seas (Watch)

    Anyone who has seen Celine Dion’s long-running Las Vegas show knows she plays the comedienne almost as much as chanteuse, with a goofball quality that came in especially handy on a Monday night edition of James Corden’s “Carpool Karaoke.” The 15-minute segment ended with Dion and Corden trading carpooling for ship-pooling and sailing around Las [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content