Robin Hood actor Jonas Armstrong to star in new BBC drama The Whale

The 90-minute film will be based on the memoirs of cabin boy Thomas Nickerson who inspired Herman Melville's Moby Dick

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Robin Hood’s Jonas Armstrong is to star in a new BBC1 adaptation of the events that inspired Herman Melville’s Moby Dick. 

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The Whale will tell the story of young cabin boy Thomas Nickerson who, aged just 14, was one of only eight survivors of the ill-fated voyage of The Essex. When he died aged 78 in 1883, Nickerson left behind a detailed memoir of his experiences which went on to inspire Melville’s 19th century novel and will act as the basis of the new 90-minute BBC drama. 

Armstrong will play first mate Owen Chase alongside Adam Rayner (The Hunted) as Captain Pollard, Paul Kaye (Game of Thrones) as Joy, David Gyasi (Cloud Atlas) as Peterson, and Joe Armstrong (The Village) as Lawrence. Newcomer Charles Furness will portray the young Tom Nickerson as he faces sea-storms, whales and the brutal desolation of the sun and sea following the shipwreck. His plight will be portrayed alongside a vivid depiction of the 19th century whaling industry and its importance and operation within the economic world. 

BBC History commissioner Martin Davidson said, “Throughout the narrative of this fascinating story some universal themes that everyone can relate to will be explored such as – What is Man’s place on Earth? How does humanity relate to the planet and its creatures? And what lengths will Man go to in order to survive? It is a thrilling tale.”

The Whale’s writer, Terry Calfolla (Holy Cross, Messiah), added, “At the emotional heart of the drama is orphan Nickerson’s coming-of-age story where he meets three powerful male role models in the captain, the first mate, and a steward. As the narrative develops, his views on what makes a man switches dramatically as he sees how these role models respond under some of life’s most extreme pressures.” 

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The Whale begins filming in Malta this week with its air date on BBC1 yet to be announced.