“Wolf Hall” producer Playground is developing a series for the BBC based on James Fenimore Cooper’s historical series of novels known collectively as the “Leatherstocking Tales,” which includes “The Last of the Mohicans.”
Playground, run by former HBO exec Colin Callender, is working on a pilot script for the project, which is being set up as a returning series. “The Last of the Mohicans” is the second and most famous of Fenimore Cooper’s five-book series and has been adapted for the big screen several times, including the 1992 film by Michael Mann starring Daniel Day-Lewis.
The stories are set between 1740 and 1806, and chronicle life among Native Americans and white pioneers on the New York State frontier. Their world is on the cusp of change, and the struggle between the British and French to take control of the region forms a high-stakes political backdrop. The novels’ hero is Hawk-Eye, who finds himself drawn into this violent conflict.
The series will be executive produced by Callender and Melissa Gallant for Playground. The BBC previously aired a serialized version of “The Last of the Mohicans” in 1971 that is viewed by many as the most faithful adaptation of the novel to date. It was on Masterpiece Theater in the U.S.
BAFTA Award winner Ed McCardie (“Shameless”) is writing in collaboration with Joely Proudfit of Native Media Strategies, who will lead a team of Native American consultants lending their expertise to the project.
Proudfit and producer-director Chris Eyre recently formed The Native Networkers, an alliance to promote American Indian representation throughout the film industry. In 2016 she was appointed by then-President Barack Obama to the National Advisory Council on Indian Education.
“Fenimore Cooper was writing ahead of his time and has much to say about celebrating culture, our relationship with the natural world, and how we live alongside each other,” Callender said. “We are delighted to be working with the BBC to create a compelling and entertaining series that will fully explore the psychological, political and emotional truths of the stories, and we are delighted to be working with Dr. Joely Proudfit of Native Media Strategies to bring essential authenticity to a much-loved story.”
McCardie said part of the appeal of adapting the books is to look at the stories from a 21st-century perspective. “These are some of the most thrilling adventure stories ever written, set in one of the most breathtaking landscapes one could imagine,” he said. “And with its themes of the relationship of man to nature; the manner in which different races, ethnicities and nationalities view one another; how we view the state; as well as the attitude and responsibilities of the stronger to the weaker, Fenimore Cooper’s work could hardly have more relevance to today’s viewer.”
Playground has a proven pedigree in adapting well-known historical pieces. Its credits include TV adaptations of “Howard’s End,” “Little Women,” “The Spanish Princess” and “King Lear.”