This time, Peaky Blinders creator Steven Knight is at the helm as writer and executive producer, so naturally you can expect something different, as anyone who saw his 2019 adaptation of A Christmas Carol will attest.
Ahead of the six-part series’ debut, here’s what you need to know…
Remind me, what is Great Expectations about?
First published by Dickens in 1861 after first releasing it in a series of weekly chapters beginning in December 1860, it is a damning critique of the class system.
It centres on the coming-of-age story of Pip, an orphan who yearns for a greater lot in life, until a twist of fate and the evil machinations of the mysterious and eccentric Miss Havisham show him a dark world of possibilities.
Under the great expectations placed upon him, Pip has to work out whether this new world will truly make him the man he wishes to be.
So how is this adaptation different, then?
Steven Knight is famed for his stylistic choices, which are immediately evident in the trailer and promotional images for this adaptation of Great Expectations.
And those who have either read the book or watched previous versions should see how it has been updated for a modern audience in terms of the script, too.
Steven – who also worked on the show with Tom Hardy and Ridley Scott, alongside Dean Baker, David W. Zucker, Kate Crowe and Tommy Bulfin – explains: “You couldn’t write about certain things in Dickens’ time: certain elements of sexuality, crime, disobedience against the crown and state.
“What I tried to do was imagine if Dickens was writing the story now and had the freedom to go to those darker places, what would he do? If he had been liberated to write the things that were going on that he wasn’t allowed to write about.”
Olivia Colman, who plays Miss Havisham, says: “The first time I read Steven Knight’s script, I thought it was much darker than what I had remembered from school. Quite a few bottom slapping moments, which I did not recall from the original Dickens!
“There were quite a few changes and I found it quite gripping.”
Shalom Brune-Franklin, who plays Estrella, adds: “There are so many characters that I feel are different from the book. One of my favourite characters in our version is Jaggers, who I think is almost unrecognisable from the novel. He’s got an incredible imagination and it’s going to be really good fun to watch.
Mr Jagers actor Ashley Thomas believes the casting choices make this interpretation stand out too.
“They have really thought outside of the box,” he says. “People can see themselves in a piece like this where they may have been excluded previously just because of the nature of the way the world was at the time.
“London at that time was a melting pot of different cultures. You had people from Asia, Africa, and the Caribbean, even before the Windrush era. I think it is important that these shows show that representation. I don’t think it’s about being woke, it’s just about being accurate to the time. This team have really endeavoured to make that happen.”
Who is in the cast?
Fionn Whitehead (Dunkirk, Black Mirror) plays Pip. “He’s unsatisfied with where he is, what he’s been born into and has these aspirations for travelling the world,” explains Fionn. “As the story goes on, it’s just him trying to shake that off and trying to become his own person and make his way in London.”
Olivia Colman (Broadchurch, Peep Show) plays Miss Havisham, who says of her version of the character: “I was given a stick and I ended up using it more as a fashion thing, rather than playing her as needing it. There might have been a couple of scenes where I forgot that, but don’t tell anyone! I think she’s vain and her ego is massively bruised – everybody plays it in a different way. That’s part of the fun.”
Shalom Brune-Franklin (Line Of Duty, The Tourist) plays Estella, Miss Havisham’s adopted daughter. “The relationship between Estella and Miss Havisham is incredibly toxic and dark, especially the way that Steven has adapted it,” Shalom reveals. “I was really excited and nervous when I found out Olivia Colman was essentially going to be playing my mum.”
Ashley Thomas (Top Boy, The Ipcress Files) plays Mr Jaggers. He says: “Working with Fionn Whitehead has been very interesting. He is a really talented actor… and we have been really catching a vibe and laughing, making jokes and just enjoying each other’s company. I think that rings through on screen.”
Johnny Harris (This Is England, Without Sin) plays Magwitch, and says he lost 22lbs to take on the role. “I was quite overweight and there was potentially a naked scene where we’d see Magwitch’s body, and he’s very strong and hungry – famished – on the run in shackles and he hasn’t eaten, so I needed to lose weight for sure,” he says.
“I didn’t know I had that on me if I’m honest.”
The cast also features Hayley Squires (Adult Material, The Miniaturist) as Mrs Sara Gargery; Owen McDonnell (Killing Eve, Mount Pleasant) as Mr Joe Gargery; Laurie Ogden (The Colour Room) as Biddy and Matt Berry (The IT Crowd, Toast Of London) as Mr Pumblechook.
Trystan Gravelle (Mr Selfridge, Quiz) also plays Compeyson, Rudi Dharmalingam (The Split, Our Girl) appears as Wemmick, while Tom Sweet (Gunpowder, The Nutcracker And The Four Realms) takes on the role of Young Pip.
When does Great Expectations start?
Great Expectations starts on Sunday 26 March at 9pm on BBC One & BBC iPlayer, with new episodes airing weekly.