An adaptation of Susanna Clarke’s first (and, to date, only) novel, Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, has been in the works ever since the book was first published to acclaim to 2004. New Line Cinema—once the most successful independent studio in Hollywood— spent years trying to develop it as feature, with drafts by playwright and screenwriter Christopher Hampton and a pre-Downton Abbey Julian Fellowes. But, much like New Line itself, the project collapsed. After years of stagnant development, it fell into the hands of the BBC, which, frankly speaking, seems like a more fitting home for an adaption of a nearly 800-page, footnote-packed novel set in an alternate-history version of the early 19th century.
The result is a 7-hour miniseries, adapted by Peter Harness and directed by Toby Haynes, a BBC veteran whose resume includes episodes of Sherlock, Being Human, and Matt Smith-era Doctor Who. Bertie Carvel and Eddie Marsan star as the title characters, “practical magicians”—sorcerers, in layman’s terms—plying their trade during the Napoleonic Wars, just as long-dormant magic has begun reawakening in England.
Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, which was co-produced by BBC America and was originally set to premiere in 2014, will begin airing on BBC One next month.