J.K. Rowling’s novel Casual Vacancy is being made into a TV miniseries in a team effort by the BBC and HBO, and the show’s cast will feature one familiar face for Harry Potter fans.
Casual Vacancy was Rowling’s first book outside the Harry Potter series and her first novel written for an adult audience. It was published in 2012 and has sold 6 million copies since then, a predictable success given the adoration surrounding Harry Potter from adults as well as youth. The novel deals with small-town politics as well as social issues regarding class and drug addiction. The book’s events take place in a suburban town in the U.K. called Pagford, where a city council seat is left open after the death of one of the beloved parish councillors. As a battle for that spot ensues, some of the candidates find their secrets being revealed in an online forum that wreaks havoc on the entire election.
Michael Gambon, best known for portraying Dumbledore in the Harry Potter franchise from The Prisoner of Azkaban onward, is set to play the parish council head and obese delicatessen owner Howard Mollison. Notes on a Scandal’s Julia McKenzie will play Mollison’s wife, Shirley. Their son, the successful lawyer Miles, who runs for the open parish council seat, will be played by Rufus Jones. Miles’s wife, Samantha, the alcoholic proprietor of a failing bra shop, will be played by Keeley Hawes.
Tinker Taylor Soldier Spy’s Simon McBurney will play Colin Wall, the deputy head teacher at a local school who is also in the running for the parish council seat, though he’s plagued by his difficulties with obsessive compulsive disorder. BAFTA winner Monica Dolan was cast as his wife, Tess Wall, the school’s guidance counselor.
One theme the book explores is how a seemingly ideal suburban town can still have a seedy underbelly that is pushed aside to the detriment of those affected by what goes on there. The social housing project known as “The Fields” and the drug rehabilitation facility Bellchapel are of great political concern in the town, which is thinking of making them a part of the local city Yarvil, rather than Pagford. Part of the novel focuses on teenage Fields resident Krystal Weedon, who lives in the housing project with her heroin-addict mother Terri and her 3-year-old brother Robbi, for whom she is the main caretaker. Keeley Forsyth will play Terri, while the unknown Abigail Lawrie was chosen for the role of Krystal.
Casual Vacancy isn’t the only film adaptation currently in the works for Rowling. Even though the Harry Potter series has wrapped, the author is at work on adapting the Potter spinoff Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them for a movie trilogy, for which she is writing the screenplays herself. The films will mark Rowling’s debut as a screenwriter. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is a school book written by a man named Newt Scamander that Harry Potter and his classmates read in order to learn about the magical creatures in the wizarding world. Rowling wrote the “textbook” as a novella in 2001 to raise money for charity.
No director, actors, or a release date have been announced for the film, although actors from the original Harry Potter movies, including Emma Watson, have expressed interest in participating.
“Although it will be set in the worldwide community of witches and wizards where I was so happy for seventeen years, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is neither a prequel nor a sequel to the Harry Potter series, but an extension of the wizarding world. The laws and customs of the hidden magical society will be familiar to anyone who has read the Harry Potter books or seen the films, but Newt’s story will start in New York, seventy years before Harry’s gets underway,” Rowling said in a statement in the fall, when the project was announced.
The BBC’s Sarah Phelps adapted Casual Vacancy for the screen, and the series will be directed by multiple-BAFTA winner Jonny Campbell. The three-part miniseries is set to begin filming in July, and a release date has not yet been set.
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