Bleak House's 'terrific' cast hailed
Posted at 7:22 AM (PST) on Tuesday, March 28, 2006
BBC News entertainment reporter
March 28, 2006
The man who adapted Charles Dickens' Bleak House for television has said outstanding storylines and a quality cast earned the series four nominations at this year's Bafta TV Awards. The programme - broadcast on BBC One last year - has been shortlisted for best drama serial. Two of its stars, Gillian Anderson and Anna Maxwell Martin, are in the running for best actress, and Denis Lawson nominated in the actor category.
When the BBC News website broke the news to screenwriter Andrew Davies, he said: "That's wonderful. Actually, you're the first person to tell me. I'm delighted." Mr Davies, who had to just a fortnight to complete the script for each episode, said: "It's a terrific story. I think that [it was] the way we tackled it, aiming to tell the story with as much speed as possible, following the example of soaps, and studying the way they intertwined all the stories so that you could seem them all developing at the same time."
The series was "certainly good old-fashioned entertainment", he said. But its success "was very much to do with the quality of the story and the characters in it, and the wonderful actors portraying them".
Each 30-minute episode finished with a "cliffhanger", increasing the tension for viewers in a manner more usually seen in modern-day soaps. Mr Davies said this was not a challenge: "With a writer like Dickens, there's no difficulty in finding good cliffhanger endings."
He singled out for praise the actors who were recognised by the Bafta selection committee. "Denis [Lawson] is a wonderful actor. He's very, very subtle and he's got a very, very light touch. It would have been possible to make Jarndyce very, very heavy and Victorian. Without going out of period at all, he made him feel like a person that we could know now."
Mr Davies described Anna Maxwell Martin's performance as Esther Summerson as "wonderful". "She's the pair of eyes through which we see the whole thing, and we have to, in a way, fall in love with her," he said.
He also said Gillian Anderson - who played Lady Dedlock - was "a truly great actress". "I think she's going to go on and play more really big roles," he added.
Producer Nigel Stafford-Clark agreed with Mr Davies' list of the reasons behind the series' popularity.
"I think it really is one of those magical pieces of serendipity when everything comes together to make something that surprised us all - the book, the format, the script, the shooting style and the performances. It's very difficult to actually separate them because I think if any of those elements hadn't worked, then the show wouldn't have been what it was. But they did, they all came together. Very rarely do you have the good fortune for everything to come together in the way it did on this show. You need an enormous amount of good fortune to bring something off like this."
Mr Stafford-Clark added his thanks not just to the actors but to all those involved in the production of Bleak House.
"If ever there was a team effort, it was this show," he said. We owe this to every single person who worked on this show. Everybody had to pull their weight and everybody had to help each other out, and we couldn't afford to make a single mistake because we were moving so quickly, and it was extraordinary."