Wilkie Collins’ The Woman in White was revolutionary when it was published in 1859. It practically founded the Victorian craze for “sensation novels” and, since then, it has been adapted for TV and film over and over again.
The BBC’s latest version, written by Fiona Seres and directed by Carl Tibbetts, takes the existing plot and re-works the storytelling structure. The five-parter will begin on Sunday 22nd April at 9pm on BBC1.
Here are the characters you’ll meet – and where you’ve seen them before:
Ben Hardy plays Walter Hartright
Who is Walter Hartright? Our protagonist is a young artist from London who takes a job managing rich old Mr Fairlie’s art collection and teaching his two orphaned nieces to draw and paint. Walter is kind and sensitive (his surname is even Hartright, so you know his heart is in the right place). He immediately forms a bond with his two pupils Marian and Laura, and becomes fascinated with a mysterious figure called The Woman in White.
What else has Ben Hardy been in? Soap fans will recognise Ben Hardy as Peter Beale from EastEnders. Since leaving Albert Square he has starred in X-Men: Apocalypse, and he’ll soon be appearing as Roger Taylor in the Queen biopic Bohemian Rhapsody.
Jessie Buckley plays Marian Halcombe
Who is Marian Halcombe? Meet Marian, Mr Fairlie’s niece who lives with him at Limmeridge House. She’s an unusual character to find in Victorian fiction, being fiercely independent and intelligent and going against the grain. Marian is a rebel who stands outside of her 19th century gender role and rejects any pressure from the outside world to be submissive or domestic.
What else has Jessie Buckley been in? Irish singer and actress Jessie Buckley first came to public attention a decade ago, when she came second in the BBC talent show I’d Do Anything – just missing out on a role as Nancy in the musical Oliver. She went on to star in the West End revival of Stephen Sondheim’s A Little Night Music. More recently she has become a familiar face on TV, playing Marya Bolkonskaya in War & Peace, Lorna Bow in Taboo, and Honor Martin in The Last Post.
Olivia Vinall plays Laura Fairlie
Who is Laura Fairlie? Laura is one of Mr Fairlie’s nieces and is the heiress to a large fortune. She’s very different from Marian but the two of them share a close bond. Dreamy and impulsive and fragile, Laura sees the world in vivid colours and has a deep understanding of art and nature.
What else has Olivia Vinall been in? The actress starred in the TV series Apple Tree Yard as Emily Watson’s on-screen daughter, Carrie. She appears in Second World War drama Where Hands Touch, and has also been on stage in Jonathan Kent’s Chekhov trilogy.
…And Olivia Vinall ALSO plays Anne – the Woman in White
Who is Anne Catherick, the Woman in White? Walter first encounters the “woman in white” on a moonlit road in London, and soon finds himself drawn into a mysterious and disturbing world. She is soon revealed as Anne Catherick, an escapee from an asylum – and she has a surprising connection to Limmeridge House.
If Anne and Laura are played by the same actress, how did they do it?
Anne and Laura are meant to look extremely similar, but not identical. “The hair and makeup designer Sian Wilson and the whole team were incredible at helping with the visual similarities and differences including dying my eyebrows, using fake teeth and cheek fillers,” Vinall explains.
Charles Dance plays Mr Fairlie
Who is Mr Fairlie? Rich, cantankerous Frederick Fairlie is a hypochondriac who isolates himself from the world at Limmeridge House, claiming to be extremely sensitive to sound, light and physical exertion. He is the uncle of Marian and Laura and serves as their guardian, although he is completely self-absorbed and selfish.
What else has Charles Dance been in? 71-year-old actor Charles Dance has a ton of credits including The Jewel in the Crown, Dracula Untold, Bleak House, And Then There Were None, and The Imitation Game. Many viewers will recognise him best as Tywin Lannister from Game of Thrones.
Joanna Scanlan plays Mrs Vesey
Who is Mrs Vesey? Laura’s former governess has now become a companion to the two young women, continuing to live at Limmeridge House. She’s calm, placid and well-intentioned.
What else has Joanna Scanlan been in? Actress and screenwriter Joanna Scanlan played Terri Coverley in The Thick of It, DI Vivienne Deering in No Offence and Janice Gray in Requiem. She starred as Sister Den Flixter in Getting On, which she also co-wrote with Jo Brand and Vicki Pepperdine, and was nominated for three Baftas.
Dougray Scott plays Sir Percival Glyde
Who is Sir Percival Glyde? In case you hadn’t guessed from the moustache and the glare, Sir Percival is a bit shady. He’s engaged to young Laura.
What else has Dougray Scott been in? The actor played Ian Hainsworth in Desperate Housewives, British boyfriend and eventual fiancé to Susan (Teri Hatcher). His other credits include Father & Son, My Week with Marilyn, Hemlock Grove, Strike Back, The Replacement, and Snatch.
Riccardo Scamarcio plays Count Fosco
Who is Count Fosco? Italian exile Count Fosco arrives later in the story. He’s involved with an Italian secret organisation.
What else has Riccardo Scamarcio been in? His English language projects include Master of None, John Wick: Chapter Two, and Black Arrow. He’s also been in plenty of Italian films and TV shows.
Nicholas Jones plays Mr Gilmore
Who is Mr Gilmore? As solicitor for the Fairlie family, Mr Gilmore embodies Victorian middle-class virtues. He is hard-working and responsible.
What else has Nicholas Jones been in? You may recognise Nicholas Jones as the Great Wizard from The Worst Witch. He recently played Sir John Simon in Churchill movie The Darkest Hour and Lord Moran in The Crown. Previous projects have included Vera Drake, Vanity Fair, Daisy Miller, Copying Beethoven, and The Blockhouse. His sister is the actress Gemma Jones.
Art Malik plays Erasmus Nash
Who is Erasmus? Mr Nash is working on behalf of Walter Hartright.
What else has Art Malik been in? Art Malik rose to fame as Hari Kumar in The Jewel in the Crown. More recently, Art Malik played Alan Taheeri in Bancroft. His other roles include Eddie Zubayr in Cold Feet, Francesc Gacet in Borgia, Zubin Khan in Holby City and Mr Amanjit Singh in Upstairs Downstairs.