Diane Haithman is contributing to Deadline’s TCA coverage.
After today’s TCA session on HBO’s miniseries Parade’s End, based on four World War I-era novels by Ford Madox Ford, director Susanna White told Deadline that PBS’ popular Downton Abbey, set in loosely the same era, was not an inspiration for her. “We were commissioned ahead of Downton,” said White of the five part mini, which is set to premiere February 26. “It’s obviously the same time period more or less, but ours is much less of an Upstairs Downstairs world. We are coming from the standpoint of being an adaptation of this series of novels. We’re coming from a slightly different place.” And what place is that? “I’d call it Downton Abbey meets The Wire,” the director quipped.
On the panel, White appeared with stars Rebecca Hall and Adelaide Clemens. Benedict Cumberbatch, who portrays Christopher Tietjens, appeared with writer Tom Stoppard via satellite. The actor, who appeared in the movie War Horse, is perhaps best known for the BBC’s popular series Sherlock. He called the chance to speak the words of the distinguished Stoppard, as well as those of Sherlock co-creator Steven Moffat, “humbling, because they are far brighter than you could possibly be.”
White was asked about whether there remains any resistance to a woman directing war scenes, with the questioner asking if film director Kathryn Bigelow had broken the glass ceiling. “Not at all,” White said, pointing out that she has directed the HBO series Generation Kill. “Then it was: ‘Why is the woman who directed Jane Eyre being allowed to [direct war scenes]? I think the climate has changed.“
Stoppard called the process of adapting the books challenging. “It was four books, 800 or 900 pages, not a straightforward, linear novel, “ he said. If he were to start describing the difficulties, he said, “I could detain you well into the night. A lot of time has passed, I can only say that I look back on this period as longer than I hoped it would be [but] I look back on it as being the good times, and I hope I have more of them.”