BBC One’s three-part adaptation of Rumer Godden’s brooding classic novel, Black Narcissus, stars British actress Gemma Arterton as Sister Clodagh, a strict and faithful young sister superior tasked with establishing a mission in the remote Himalayas.
Set in the 1930s, the series faithfully captures the novel’s themes of forbidden desire, religion, and sexual repression, as Clodagh is increasingly haunted by an event from her past that first drove her to take her vows, and which now, years later, fills her with longing.
Mother Dorothea (the late Diana Rigg) is sceptical of Clodagh’s pride, however, and sends Sister Ruth (Aisling Franciosi) to accompany Clodagh to the Himalayas, where already tense relations between the two women slowly turn poisonous.
A teaser trailer and first-look image of Arterton in character as Sister Clodagh was released in September 2020, ahead of the drama’s December air-date later this year.
Here’s everything you need to know about Black Narcissus.
When is Black Narcissus on TV?
The series began filming in October 2019, and the BBC has now confirmed it will begin on Sunday, 27th December at 9pm, with the following two episodes airing in the same slot over the next two nights – Monday 28th and Tuesday 29th December.
In the USA, all three episodes will premiere on FX on Monday 23rd November, and will be available on Hulu from 24th November.
What is Black Narcissus about?
Based on Rumer Godden’s 1939 book of the same name, Black Narcissus follows Sister Clodagh, who leads the nuns of St Faiths to a remote spot high in the Himalayan mountains, where they set up a branch of their order in the palace of Mopu — originally built as a home for a former General’s concubines (‘The House of Women’).
There, Sister Clodagh is “increasingly attracted ” to the arrogant land agent, Mr Dean, as is the unstable Sister Ruth. As the two women grapple with their unspoken desires, “the repressed memories of Clodagh’s past become entangled with the tragic history of Princess Srimati, [and] history seems doomed to repeat itself”.
In a statement, series writer Amanda Coe said: “I’m thrilled to be adapting Black Narcissus for BBC One. It’s a truly extraordinary love story, as well as a brilliantly unsettling piece of 20th century gothic about the power of a place to get under your skin and the dangers of refusing to learn from history.”
The story was also adapted in 1947 into an Oscar-winning film, starring Deborah Kerr in the role of Sister Clodagh.
Who is in the cast of Black Narcissus?
Gemma Arterton (The King’s Man, The Escape) leads the Black Narcissus cast in the role of Sister Clodagh, while Alessandro Nivola (American Hustle, Chimerica) plays Mr Dean and Aisling Franciosi (The Nightingale, I Know This Much Is True) stars as Sister Ruth, with whom Clodagh has a tense relationship.
Also joining the cast is the late Game of Thrones star and acting legend Diana Rigg (to whom the mini-series is dedicated) as Mother Dorothea, in addition to Jim Broadbent (Paddington 2, The Iron Lady) as Father Roberts, and Bodyguard’s Gina McKee as Sister Adela.
Rosie Cavaliero (Prey, Unforgotten) also stars as Sister Briony, alongside Patsy Ferran (Tom And Jerry, Jamestown) as Sister Blanche, Karen Bryson (MotherFatherSon, Safe) as Sister Philippa, and newcomer Dipika Kunwar as Kanchi.
Is there a trailer for Black Narcissus?
Yes, you can watch the official BBC trailer for Black Narcissus (starring Gemma Arterton) below – or a slightly longer version uploaded here, revealing slightly more about the complex relationship and rivalry between Sisters Clodagh and Ruth.