A new TV adaptation of Charles Dickens’s coming-of-age story Great Expectations is coming to our screens courtesy of Peaky Blinders creator Steven Knight.


Starring Olivia Colman as the indelible character Miss Havisham, the show has certainly sparked a lot of interest, with many moaning at the choice to adapt the book again (Dickens's novel has been adapted for TV and film 17 times, and adapted for stage 11 times) – though it looks like Knight has given it a fresh twist, if the grim trailer is anything to go by.

The series's creator recently revealed he added in what he has called “saucy lines” because he knew Colman would be able to pull them off.

He said: "[Miss Havisham] was written as quite a big role anyway – obviously you’ve got to write it to get the actor – and she’s got to read pretty much beginning, middle and end. But when I knew it was Olivia obviously then you go back and start to enjoy yourself because you can start adding [a] bit more of what Olivia brings.

"She’s just so powerful on the screen. There’s a couple of things we changed once we knew she would be in the role – a couple of what you’d call saucy lines where you know she’s going to pull it off in a way that it’s going to be just right. And she does."

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Alongside Colman, the cast also features The Tourist's Shalom Brune-Franklin and The Ipcress File's Ashley Thomas, to name a few.

Read on for everything you need to know about the BBC's new adaptation series, including when it's set to be released and to watch the trailer.

Great Expectations release date

Olivia Colman as Miss Havisham and Fionn Whitehead as Pip in Great Expectations.
Olivia Colman as Miss Havisham and Fionn Whitehead as Pip in Great Expectations. BBC

Great Expectations will be arriving on BBC One and BBC iPlayer from Sunday 26th March 2023, with episodes dropping weekly.

Great Expectations cast

Olivia Colman as Miss Havisham in Great Expectations
Olivia Colman as Miss Havisham in Great Expectations. BBC

Pretty soon after the casting for this upcoming adaptation was announced, it's safe to say that period drama fans began patiently counting down the days to see this stellar talent in action.

The cast is led by Olivia Colman as Miss Havisham and Fionn Whitehead as Pip, with the full cast list as follows:

  • Olivia Colman as Miss Havisham
  • Fionn Whitehead as Pip
  • Ashley Thomas as Jaggers
  • Johnny Harris as Abel Magwitch
  • Shalom Brune-Franklin as Estella
  • Hayley Squires as Sara Gargery
  • Owen McDonnell as Joe Gargery
  • Rudi Dharmalingam as Wemmick
  • Matt Berry as Mr Pumblechuck
  • Trystan Gravelle as Compeyson
  • Laurie Ogden as Biddy

The cast list almost looked very different, however, with Colman recently revealing she almost turned down the role.

At a recent Q&A for the series attended by RadioTimes.com and other press, Colman said that at first, she "kept going 'No, no'". She said this was "because a couple of my good mates had played it and I thought 'Oh no'".

However, Colman added: "And then I realised that in art world, loads of people have played Richard III. It’s okay. Actors do that. And then I saw Steven’s take on it, I read the scripts – in general I never say yes before I’ve read the script. And I loved it. Everything in Steven’s hands is just heightened and made better."

What is Great Expectations about?

Subject to countless adaptations over the years and obviously a very well known, classic novel, the tale of Great Expectations is a coming-of-age story at its finest.

In this adaptation, we follow Pip (Fionn Whitehead), an orphan who may yearn for more in life but in a random twist of fate, is introduced to the mysterious and eccentric Miss Havisham (Olivia Colman) and Estella (Shalom Brune-Franklin), who show him a dark world of possibilities.

"Under the great expectations placed upon him, Pip will have to work out the cost of this new world and whether it will truly make him the man he wishes to be," the synopsis states.

The tale was first released in weekly increments by Dickens, which started in December 1860, and saw the novelist share Great Expectations chapter by chapter before it was then released as a complete novel.

Is there a trailer for Great Expectations?

There is! It was released earlier this year and in it, we get our first proper glimpse at Colman's somewhat tragic character of Miss Havisham, who continues to wear a wedding dress despite being once abandoned at the altar many years before.

Watch the trailer below.

Great Expectations airs on BBC One and BBC iPlayer from Sunday 26th March at 9pm. Check out more of our Drama coverage or visit our TV Guide and Streaming Guide to find out what's on.


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