Steven Knight's new adaptation of Great Expectations arrives on BBC One this week, and in a casting coup it stars Olivia Colman as classic Dickens character Miss Havisham.


Many viewers will likely find Colman's role in the series a real draw, but it appears she almost turned down the role when she was first offered it.

At a recent Q&A for the series attended by 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'".

Olivia Colman as Miss Havisham in Great Expectations.
Olivia Colman as Miss Havinsham in Great Expectations. BBC/FX Networks/Pari Dukovic

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."

Asked whether she watched any other adaptations in preparation for the role, including the ones in which her friends star, she said: "No, I haven't seen either of them play it."

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Colman continued: "I can remember a black and white one that I must have seen as a kid with my family, and I would have liked to have seen them – I might do it now, but I sort of try not to watch it when you hear that you might be up for the job. I don't want to know. It's much better.

"I think our job is to commit to the script we've been given. I don’t know if that suggests that you can be lazy. But I think otherwise you go 'But what about [that] bit? What about that bit?' And actually, you've been employed to do that script, and I didn't want to be influenced and feel inadequate and nervous. So luckily I can't really remember the one I saw."

One of the friends Colman may be referring to is Gillian Anderson, who she starred alongside in The Crown and who played Miss Havisham in the BBC's three-part adaptation of Great Expectations in 2011.

Great Expectations premieres on BBC One and BBC iPlayer at 9pm Sunday 26th March. 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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