J.K. Rowling’s ‘The Casual Vacancy’ Is a Long Way From Hogwarts

J.K. Rowling has a new story hitting the screen and this time, there are no wands or whimsical creatures to be found. The trailer for BBC’s upcoming miniseries The Casual Vacancy, based on the author’s first post-Harry Potter novel, has just been released, and it’s very clear this show is intended for mature audiences only.

Released in 2012, The Casual Vacancy marked Rowling’s first foray into adult novels. Though the book received mixed reviews, it quickly became a bestseller, largely under the strength of Rowling’s name. The small screen adaptation has been in the works since shortly after the novel’s publication, when the BBC first optioned it. HBO then signed on on to co-produce the three-part series in April of last year.

The Casual Vacancy takes place in Pagford, a seemingly idyllic English village where things are actually far from perfect. The town’s dark underbelly and heinous secrets become exposed after an important member of council suddenly dies, causing all hell to break loose. The novel tackles some pretty grim subject matter, including domestic abuse, racial tension, and the complex social and political dynamics between the various members of a small town.

The trailer brings the town’s pretty façade to life, showing happy exchanges between neighbors and children riding on bicycles against the backdrop of charming houses and green hills. That shiny veneer is quickly blown to bits as the teaser cuts to a funeral scene, followed by shots of several women crying and a girl hiding a young child from an abusive man. As a narrator ominously reminds us, “Everyone’s got skeletons in their closets.”

The show boasts a stacked cast, starring Rory Kinnear (Penny Dreadful), Julia McKenzie (Agatha Christie’s Marple), and Michael Gambon (who played Dumbledore in Rowling’s Harry Potter). Simona Brown (Wizards vs. Aliens). Emily Bevan (In the Flesh), Lolita Chakrabarti (The Bill), and Monica Dolan (The Escape Artist) also co-star, among others.

The show is directed by Jonny Campbell (In the Flesh), from a script penned by Sarah Phelps (EastEnders, BBC’s Great Expectations). According to The Hollywood Reporter, Rowling is on board to executive produce the miniseries via her Bronte Film and Television production banner that she runs with longtime literary agent. Blair co-executive produces alongside Paul Trijbits (Saving Mr. Banks, Dancing on the Edge) and Rick Senat.

Production on the miniseries started this past summer. The first of the three one-hour episodes is scheduled to premiere February 15 on BBC One in the U.K. The HBO premiere date has yet to be announced, but it’s expected to air sometime this year.

Rowling has plenty of other projects on her plate, aside from The Casual Vacancy adaptation. As she herself announced on Twitter this past fall, she is currently more than halfway through her latest novel, although it’s still unclear if that book is another installment of the Cormoran Strike series (written under the alias of Robert Galbraith) or a rumored follow-up to The Casual Vacancy.

The author is also busy wrapping up her screenplay for the first installment of the upcoming Harry Potter spin-off, Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them movie. Earlier this month, Warner Bros. announced that the big screen adaptation of the original 2001 novel will be split into three films, set for release in 2016, 2018, and 2020.

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