Keeley Hawes & Rose Leslie to Star in 'Miss Austen'

Rose Leslie as Isabella, Keeley Hawes as Cassandra Austen, Mirren Mack as Dinah, and Jessica Hynes as Mary Austen standing in the kitchen in 'Miss Austen'

Rose Leslie as Isabella, Keeley Hawes as Cassandra Austen, Mirren Mack as Dinah, and Jessica Hynes as Mary Austen in 'Miss Austen'

(C) Robert Viglasky/Masterpiece

PBS first announced Masterpiece was working on an adaptation of Gil Hornsby's novel Miss Austen in the summer of 2022, not long after the second season of Sanditon returned. Jane Austen has been a staple of PBS since it first premiered as a network and Masterpiece in particular, both in the enduring popularity of new adaptations of her works and in creative spin-offs like P.D. James' Death Comes to Pemberley and Guy Andrews' Lost in Austen. Miss Austen falls into the latter category; the 2020 best-selling novel is a very convincing but fictionalized account of Jane Austen's relationship with her sister Cassandra, which turns into a Mary Bennet-inspired take on Austen's famous Pride and Prejudice

At the time, PBS slated the planned four-part miniseries for 2023, but a year later, it looks like that will be more like 2024 (or 2025), as filming has only just gotten underway with future dame Keely Hawes (Bodyguard) and Rose Leslie (Vigil) in the leading roles. Hawes has been cast as Cassandra Austen, famous among Austen scholars for having burned most of her sister's letters after her passing. Leslie plays family friend Isabella, who, in the novel, possesses this stash of letters from the now-deceased Jane, which Cassandra is determined to get possession of, lest they become public. 

As the present-day setting of the story is 1830, over a decade after Jane's death, the author only appears in flashbacks, where she is played by Olivier Award winner Patsy Ferran (Jamestown). 

Keeley Hawes as Cassandra Austen looks through her sister's books in 'Miss Austen'

Keeley Hawes as Cassandra Austen in 'Miss Austen'

(C) Robert Viglasky/Masterpiece

Here is the miniseries' full synopsis:

Miss Austen takes a literary mystery – Cassandra Austen notoriously burning her famous sister Jane’s letters – and reimagines it as a fascinating, witty, and heart-breaking story of sisterly love, while creating in Cassandra a character as captivating as any Austen heroine. 

The drama begins in 1830, a while after Jane has died. Cassandra races to see her friend Isabella who is about to lose her home following her father’s death. Cassandra is ostensibly there to help her friend, but her real motive is to find a stash of private letters which, in the wrong hands, could destroy Jane’s reputation. On discovering them, Cassandra is overwhelmed as she is transported back to her youth. In flashback, we meet Young Cassy and Jane as they navigate the infatuations, family feuds, and dashed hopes that shaped their lives and laid the foundations for Jane’s unforgettable stories. Cassandra’s re-evaluation of her past eventually leads her to realize how blind she has been to the real cause of Isabella’s heartache and distress. Finding a way to guide Isabella toward true happiness, Cassandra is finally able to understand and celebrate the sacrifices she chose to make for her brilliant sister, Jane.

Keeley Hawes as Cassandra Austen a perfect portrait in 'Miss Austen'

Keeley Hawes as Cassandra Austen in 'Miss Austen'

(C) Robert Viglasky/Masterpiece

Hawes, Leslie, and Ferran are joined by an A-list lineup of British talent for the Miss Austen miniseries. Their co-stars include Jessica Hynes (Years and Years), Mirren Mack (The Nest), Phyllis Logan (Downton Abbey), Kevin McNally (The Crown), Max Irons (The White Queen), Alfred Enoch (The Couple Next Door), Calam Lynch (Archie) and Liv Hill (The Serpent Queen).

The four-part drama was adapted by writer Andrea Gibb (Mayflies), directed by Aisling Walsh (Elizabeth is Missing), and produced by Stella Merz (Gentleman Jack). Gibb, Walsh, and Hawes are all credited as executive producers, alongside Christine Langan for Bonnie Productions, Susanne Simpson for Masterpiece, and Polly Williams for Federation Stories. Miss Austen is a co-production of Bonnie Productions and Masterpiece in association with the BBC and Federation Stories. The series has already been acquired by the BBC in the U.K.

Filming for Miss Austen began in November 2023 in the U.K. It is currently expected to air on PBS as part of the 2024-2025 TV season.

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The fan-favorite drama inspired by Jane Austen’s final, unfinished novel.
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Ani Bundel has been blogging professionally since 2010. A DC native, Hufflepuff, and Keyboard Khaleesi, she spends all her non-writing time taking pictures of her cats. Regular bylines also found on MSNBC, Paste, Primetimer, and others. 

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