Kenneth Lonergan’s adaptation of Howards End on Starz marks the TV debut of the E.M. Forster literary masterpiece. Lonergan was joined on stage to talk about the four-part limited series directed by Hettie Macdonald at Contenders with star Hayley Atwell.

In Howards End, Atwell plays Margaret Schlegel, one of two sisters living together with their hypochondriac younger brother in Edwardian London. The two lead independent and slightly unorthodox lives. The novel was adapted for the big screen in 1992 by James Ivory, who has distinct storytelling skills.

The Contenders Emmys 2018

Lonergan told moderator Joe Utichi that he was intrigued by the source material and, at the same time, had many objections — which was one of the reasons why he was “flattered” into adapting it. With his different point of view on the story, he said he didn’t think too much about Ivory’s version because the format is different. Because of that, he admits, “It felt pretty easy to take a fresh approach.”

Atwell said as soon as she found out Lonergan was writing the script, she was on board.

“It was like an orchestra and sounded like people who knew each other…it was naturalistic,”  she said, comparing Lonergan’s adaptation to a musical score. “It came off the page as an active and live piece of work.”