After months of uncertainty we finally know the identities of some of the actors joining Claes Bang’s Count in Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat’s BBC adaptation of Dracula, with Joanna Scanlan, Dolly Wells, John Heffernan, Lujza Richter and Gatiss himself among those starring in the eagerly-awaited vampire series.
At the moment, their roles remain a mystery – the BBC statement suggests they’ll be revealed in “due course” – but based on how the characters are described in the novels, the ages of the actors and a quick look at their former work, we’ve tried our best to speculate on who could be playing who, as well as which key castings remain unannounced.
Of course, these are just predictions – if Moffat and Gatiss are making changes to the story of Bram Stoker’s original novel, they might decide to subvert some of his characters too – but this first guess does at least have some evidence behind it…
Mark Gatiss – Renfield
Apart from Bang as Dracula himself, series co-creator Mark Gatiss, 52, is probably the most intriguing member of the cast, his role in the drama echoing a similar arrangement to his and Moffat’s previous series Sherlock, in which he played the fairly central role of Sherlock’s brother Mycroft Holmes alongside his screenwriting duties.
And Gatiss may even have given us a clue as to who he could be playing in Dracula some time ago, with the actor and writer suggesting that Dracula’s minion Renfield (a disturbed asylum patient manipulated into doing the vampire’s bidding) could be the part for him.
On one hand, this seems fairly cut-and-dried – if Gatiss, one of the show’s creators, wants to write a certain part it seems like he’d probably get to, and he’s around the same age Renfield is described as in the book – but it’s also been a couple of years since he made the suggestion, and it could be that he’s rethought the idea since then.
And there are plenty of other roles he could play. It’s not hard to imagine Gatiss in the role of Doctor Seward, the medical man who placates Renfield (while the Seward of the book is a little younger, the part could be rejigged) or even Abraham Van Helsing, the famed vampire-hunter who eventually arrives to track the Count down.
Then again, the Renfield idea is still pretty convincing, and we can’t help but feel the casting for Van Helsing could be being held back for a surprise big-name actor down the line.
John Heffernan – Jonathan Harker
Thirty-seven year old Heffernan, best known for appearances in The Crown, Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell and Collateral among other projects, also seems like a good fit for Dr Seward, specifically the young version seen in Stoker’s original novel.
But he seems like an even better choice to play Jonathan Harker, the strait-laced young lawyer whose journey to Transylvania and Castle Dracula kicks off the action of the novel. Later becoming husband to Mina (see below), he was played by Keanu Reeves in the 1992 film version of the story.
Lujza Richter – Mina Harker
Phantom Thread’s Lujza Richter seems like a solid choice to play Mina Murray/Harker, the heroine of the novel and later wife of Jonathan who finds herself in the Count’s thrall, and who has become a well-known pop culture character in her own right (particularly thanks to depictions in media like The League of Gentleman comic series).
However, she could also be in the frame for another of the novel’s female characters around her age – Lucy Westenra, see below – or, given her rather hypnotic gaze, even as one of the three female vampires who live with Count Dracula, known as the “Brides of Dracula.”
Morfydd Clark – Lucy Westenra
Clark (Patrick Melrose, The Alienist, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies) definitely seems like a decent fit for Lucy Westenra, Mina’s spirited friend who becomes one of the Count’s victims in the novel and has to be destroyed by her former suitors.
Then again, she could quite possibly be playing Mina, swapping roles with Lujza Richter – Mina and Lucy have been portrayed in a variety of ways in previous adaptations so it will depend on exactly how Gatiss and Moffat see the characters.
Dolly Wells – a new or reimagined character
You might recognise Dolly Wells, 47, from parts in comedies like The IT Crowd or Peep Show; she has supernatural credentials too, thanks to a role in horror comedy Pride and Prejudice and Zombies alongside none other than Morfydd Clark (above); and she appeared more recently in Oscar-nominated movie Can You Ever Forgive Me? But who will she be playing in Dracula?
Put simply, it’s hard to see where Wells fits into the basic cast of the novel, perhaps suggesting that Gatiss and Moffat are adding new characters – or making changes to those we know.
Could it be that Wells is playing a female version of an existing character – a female Dr Seward, or Van Helsing, perhaps? – or an entirely new character created specifically for this TV series? Or is she a revamped version of one of the Brides of Dracula, given more of a role in the story thanks to the drama’s special focus on the Count?
It’s safe to say we’re pretty intrigued by this one…
Joanna Scanlan – Mrs Westenra
By contrast, we do have a bit of an idea as to how No Offence’s Joanna Scanlan, 57, might fit into proceedings. One of the key characters in Stoker’s novel is Mrs Westenra, the mother of Lucy, who ends up inadvertently condemning her daughter to un-death when she removes Van Helsing’s supernatural protections from her.
It doesn’t seem beyond the realms of possibility that an actress of Scanlan’s abilities could have been brought on board to offer a more nuanced version of this character, often dismissed in the narrative as an irritant or nuisance. On the other hand, it could be that we’re misread this and Wells is set to play Mrs Westenra, in which case it’s Scanlan who remains a question mark.
For now, those are our best guesses as to who the newly-announced cast will be playing in Dracula. Stay tuned for when we’re proved horribly and embarrassingly wrong.