This year is the 200th anniversary of the publication of Jane Austen’s Pride And Prejudice. To mark the occasion, the BBC is prepping three-part serial Death Comes To Pemberley, based on the suspense novel/homage by crime writer P.D. James. The book centers on three of Austen’s most iconic characters: Elizabeth Bennet, Fitzwilliam Darcy and George Wickham. The AmericansMatthew Rhys will play Darcy, Anna Maxwell Martin (who was Cassandra Austen in Becoming Jane) is Elizabeth and Matthew Goode is Wickham. The story picks up six years into Elizabeth and Darcy’s marriage as they prepare for the annual ball at their magnificent Pemberley home. When Elizabeth’s wayward sister Lydia arrives, she brings a shocking halt to the proceedings. A murder investigation unfolds and a web of secrets and deceit threatens all that the Darcys hold dear. Juliette Towhidi (Calendar Girls) did the adaptation which will be directed by Daniel Percival (Crossing Lines).

Although Laurence Olivier once played Mr. Darcy, Colin Firth has recently become more closely associated with the role for his portrayal in the BBC’s 1995 adaptation of Pride And Prejudice as well as his Bridget Jones character Mark Darcy who is based on Austen’s original. Rhys said, “Exciting as it is, one of the challenges of a part such as Darcy are the comparisons that will be drawn to those who’ve institutionalized him in the past. The beauty of Pemberly is that it is an entirely new and different Darcy 6 years on.” Referring to what’s been called one of the most unforgettable moments in British TV history when Firth’s Darcy went for a swim in Pride And Prejudice, Rhys added, “And also, I don’t have to appear from a lake in a white shirt and breeches.”

Origin Pictures is producing for BBC One with filming to start next month in Yorkshire. Executive producers are Ed Rubin for Origin Pictures, Polly Hill for the BBC and Hugo Heppell for Screen Yorkshire. Producers for Origin are David Thompson and Eliza Mellor. The series is expected to run during the end-of-year holidays.