Vanity Fair writer Gwyneth Hughes + director James Strong joined us along with three of the programme's main actors + its producers to talk about reimagining William Makepeace Thackeray's timeless novel into a fresh new adaptation for today's audience. See some highlights from the session below.
1. Being Thackeray's "assistant" when writing the adaptation
Writer Gwyneth Hughes is a big Thackeray fan, saying that creating the screenplay felt more like a collaboration than a reimagining.
It's really up there with one of the best books ever, and she [the protagonist, Becky] is one of the best heroines ever.
2. Adding a crucial part to round out viewer experience
Despite originally resisting the idea, Hughes was persuaded by the programme's producers to include sequences surrounding the Battle of Waterloo. Thackeray himself avoided depicting war scenes in the novel, preferring to focus the narrative on the ladies as they stayed at home.
We just kept refining and refining it to get the three chunks of battle that were the most interesting + to keep that really character-driven.
3. Just like the original...but with Madonna
It's got to be entertaining. It's got to be accessible, but it has to have integrity for Thackeray fans. It's about honouring him in a wonderful, sheeny-shiny, twenty-first-century way.
Director James Strong notes that the story lends itself well to being just plain entertaining, but also that it goes well with a modern aesthetic. Be sure to watch for a glossy look + a pop-y sound (yes, that includes some Madonna)!
4. Complicated characters that act like the real thing
One of the strengths of the story, according to the actors, is how realistic the characters are. Claudia Jessie, who plays the gentle Amelia, enjoys the interplay of good and bad within each role.
We're all brilliant...but also a little bit crap. And that's just the nature of what it is to be human.