With a new craving for prestige BBC-level content in America, the BBC has been going back to the well to revive older classics. In 2020, that brought viewers Black Narcissus, an update on the novel turned hit film from the mid-20th century. Though it stayed a minor hit on streaming over on FX on Hulu, AMC hopes the model works for them with its latest acquisition, The Beast Must Die. Based on the 1938 novel of the same name written by author Cecil Day-Lewis under the name Nicholas Blake, this mystery crime thriller looks like it could be a stunner.
The original novel is a mystery story within a mystery story. Driven mad with grief over his son's hit-and-run death, crime writer Frank Cairns plots "the perfect murder" to kill the man responsible. But as he infiltrates the life of his planned victim, the target in question is suddenly found dead, and worse, all signs point to Cairns, who insists he is innocent. Now the man who spent his life coming up with plans to kill people has to solve his own, with the help of private detective Nigel Strangeways, who a friend calls in to prove Cairn's innocence.
As adapted by Gaby Chiappe, whose credits include The Level and Vera, the series has made several significant changes from book to screen. For one thing, Frances Cairns is no longer a mystery writer nor a man. The show stars Cush Jumbo as the lead role, now a grieving mother, alongside BAFTA winner Jared Harris. (Harris has joked he only landed the role because Daniel Day-Lewis, son of the novel's original author, turned it down.) Billy Howle, Nathaniel Parker, and Geraldine James will co-star
The new synopsis reads as follows:
The series, based on the novel by Nicholas Blake, centers on a grieving mother who infiltrates the life of the man she thinks murdered her son.
Check out the first clip from the new series.
Note that BritBox UK put out this first teaser scene. When the streamer first jumped into the producing originals game last summer, The Beast Must Die, which was developed as a BBC series, moved house to the streamer as the headliner of BritBox UK's new venture. The series was picked up by AMC for its own streaming service not long after.
Speaking at the Television Critics Association panel, Jumbo said this role took her to her limits.
"I never swim in the sea, let alone walk on the bottom of it. I don't stand in the freezing cold and get pelted with rain. I don't hang off cliffs. I don't drive sports cars. All this stuff scares me. So I was being physically pushed to the edge on stuff, and also, this script is one of the most intricate, forensic scripts I've ever worked with. It felt Shakesperean, it felt epic. I was pushed as an actor, pushed in myself, and I so wanted it to be good. I think I got stretched on this job."
The Beast Must Die has not yet premiered in the U.K. but is expected to arrive soon. AMC+ has slated the American premiere for this summer.