Christmas is not complete without a BBC period drama to settle down in front of, and this year we’re being treated to something extra special in the form of ‘The Miniaturist’.
The two-part drama is adapted from the Jessie Burton novel of the same name and will take pride of place in BBC One’s Boxing Day schedule, airing in the prestigious 9pm slot.
Set in 1686, it tells the story of 18 year-old Nella Oortman as she begins a new life as the wife of the wealthy merchant, Johannes Brandt.
But when he gifts her a dolls’ house replica of their home as a wedding present, an elusive miniaturist furnishes it with tiny creations that begin spookily predicting what is happening within the house.
As Nella begins to uncover its secrets and those of the Brandt household, she realizes the escalating dangers that await them all, but will she be the key to their salvation or the architect of their downfall?
Ahead of the show, we sat down with three of the cast - Anya Taylor-Joy (Nella), Hayley Squires (Cornelia) and Emily Berrington (the Miniaturist) - to find out everything there is to know about the series.
Who is the Miniaturist?
Emily takes on the role of the mysterious miniaturist, who starts to send things to Nella for her doll’s house she hasn’t ordered.
“They seem to be telling a story about what is going to happen to Nella,” Emily explains. “But the bit that’s mysterious is how the Miniaruist is creating these things and how she appears to know about what is happening in Nella’s life.”
The house is holding a lot of secrets
“As it goes on, you find out that it’s actually these four people who live in this house before Nella arrives that hold each other’s secrets and lies and depend on each other to keep them and protect each other,” Hayley explains.
Emily adds: “It’s quite difficult to speak about because there are so many!
“If people have read the book, then they will obviously know the story, but we don’t want to give away the best bit of the show, which is the mystery of what’s real and what’s not. What’s magic and what isn’t?”
The theme of feminism is very strong
“What is so lovely is that you think these characters are going to be stereotypes of themselves, but they’re really modern and have very modern desires, wants and morals,” Anya says. “Sometimes people hear period drama and think you have to act in a period drama way, but they are just people living in a different time.”
“With all of the women in the show, all of their roles are challenged and they find it very difficult to sit within that box,” Hayley continues.
“The exterior world outside of the house is this very strict, puritanical state, so I think it definitely reflects back on society and the government and how they’re baring down on us.”
Anya stayed away from the books before taking on the role of Nella
“It’s different for everyone, but I hadn’t read the book before I signed on and I think it was really helpful for me, because all I had was the script,” she explains.“I created Nella the way I wanted to play her already.
“Then when I read the book, I think the pressure of portraying such a beloved character that exists in the mind of so many people, I think that can skew your brain a little bit.”
The actress who plays Marin had people laughing with the character’s one liners
The dynamic between Nella and Marin provides some light to the shade of The Miniaturist’s darker moments, and sparring off one another provided some moments of hilarity on set.
Anya says: “Romilla [Garai] is such an incredible actress and she was relishing in how nasty Marin is so much that is was actually difficult to keep a straight face because I really wanted to smile.”
The author has a cameo role in the show
“She’s actually in one of the scenes that we did,” Anya reveals. “She was dressed to the nines and seeing her come in to this world she had created herself, was a really beautiful moment.”
Hayley adds that Jessie was also a big presence on set, and was a source of inspiration for the cast.
“She was so excited and she was very encouraging of what we were doing,” she says. “Having her there and her presence, it was confirmation that you were doing the right job for the woman that created these characters.”
The cast actually got to go to Holland to film it
While a lot of drama often dress up locations in the UK to look like those further afield, some of the show’s scenes were shot in Holland, where the drama is set.
“In Lyndon, we were there for the first week of shooting to get a lot of the exteriors and the big church scene, and that was lovely,” Hayley says, as Emily reveals other scenes were shot much closer to home.
“The interiors were in Luton Hoo,” she adds. “We filmed a lot around London.”
The costume changes took aaages
“Each of my changes took about 40 minutes to an hour,” Anya reveals. ”We’d get in, change all of it, then you’d have to change the hair and accessories.
“By the end of it, costume, make-up and I were spending so much time together that we were like a little unit - we could just get things on really quickly, but it was intense.”
The cast weren’t allowed to play with the dolls’ house in between takes
Emily says: “I couldn’t believe how much time it took to make each thing, so I didn’t really want to mess around with them, because if you broke it, that was two weeks of somebody’s work that had been destroyed.”
‘The Miniaturist’ airs on Boxing Day and Wednesday 27 December at 9pm on BBC One.
Watch the full interview with the cast below...