Star-Studded ‘Les Miserables’ Adaptation Headed to Masterpiece

Dominic West, David Oyelowo and Lily Collins at the "Les Miserables" read through (Photo: BBC/PBS)
Dominic West, David Oyelowo and Lily Collins at the "Les Miserables" read through (Photo: BBC/PBS)

The BBC and PBS Masterpiece are teaming up to bring a brand new version of famous novel Les Miserables to the small screen.

Award-winning screenwriter Andrew Davies, best known for his work on BBC period drama Mr. Selfridge and the corporation’s lavish 2016 version of Tolsoy’s War and Peace, will be adapting Hugo’s story. He promises that his version will delve more deeply into the issues and layers of the author’s original story, focusing on Jean Valjean and Javert’s cat-and-mouse relationship, set against the epic backdrop of France at a time of civil unrest.

Actor Dominic West (The Affair, The Wire) will play the iconic role of Jean Valjean, opposite David Oyelowo (Selma, MI-5) as his nemesis Javert. The two are joined by an all-star cast that includes Lily Collins (The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones) as Fantine, Josh O’Connor (The Durrells in Corfu) as Marius, Erin Kellyman (Raised by Wolves) as Eponine, and Adeel Akhtar (The Big Sick, Ghosted) and Olivia Colman (Broadchurch, The Night Manager) as Monsieur and Madame Thénardier. (Whew!)

“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,” Davies said in a press release announcing the series’ cast. “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.”

Most people are at least tangentially familiar with Hugo’s epic story thanks to the popular stage musical adaptation. But the original novel deals much more heavily with social issues, particularly the struggles facing the French underclass and the reasons for their attempt at revolution. There are many, many more battle sequences. And some characters are a bit different – or at least may seem so to fans of the story’s musical version. (For example: Book Cosette is much, much more interesting than her musical counterpart, and Fantine gets a longer and somehow even more heartbreaking backstory.)

Masterpiece made the official announcement earlier this week. 

Do we really need another version of Les Miserables? Maybe. So many of the recent theatrical versions have been largely based on the musical’s slimmed down take on the story that it could be nice to see things properly fleshed out here. A six part series would certainly give Davies and company time to really delve into the characters, as well as place their behaviors and ambitions in context of the world in which they live.

(Oh, who am I kidding? I’ve loved Les Miserables since I was a teenager. I am 100% for all of this.)

Filming will begin in February in Belgium and Northern France. No word yet on when it will air on either side of the pond, but we’ll keep you posted as more information comes our way.

Are  you a fellow Les Mis enthusiast? How does this cast list sound to you? Let’s discuss in the comments.