EXCLUSIVE: HBO has come on board as co-producer and distributor of the BBC fantasy drama series His Dark Materials. HBO has partnered with BBC, Bad Wolf, in which HBO owns a small stake, and New Line Cinema to co-produce the adaptation of the Philip Pullman novels, which has an order for two eight-episode seasons from the BBC, as revealed by Deadline yesterday. Additionally, HBO has acquired the worldwide rights to the series outside of the UK.
His Dark Materials, which stars Dafne Keen, James McAvoy, Ruth Wilson and Lin-Manuel Miranda, is believed to be one of the biggest in scope and most expensive British dramas to date. Written by Jack Thorne and directed by Tom Hooper, it is based on Pullman’s acclaimed trilogy of books: Northern Lights, The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass, considered a modern masterpiece of imaginative fiction.
The cast of the drama, which started filming earlier this month in Cardiff at Wolf Studios Wales, also includes Anne-Marie Duff, Clarke Peters, Ariyon Bakare, Will Keen, father of young lead Dafne Keen, Ian Gelder, Georgina Campbell, Lucian Msamati, James Cosmo, Ruta Gedmintas, Mat Fraser, Geoff Bell, Simon Manyonda as well as young actors Lewin Lloyd, Daniel Frogson and Tyler Howitt.
The first season of His Dark Materials follows Lyra (Dafne Keen), a seemingly ordinary but brave young woman from another world. Lyra’s search for a kidnapped friend uncovers a sinister plot involving stolen children, and becomes a quest to understand a mysterious phenomenon called Dust. As she journeys through the worlds, including our own, Lyra meets a determined and courageous boy called Will. Together they encounter extraordinary beings and dangerous secrets, with the fate of both the living—and the dead— in their hands.
Executive Producing the series are Dan McCulloch, Jane Tranter and Julie Gardner for Bad Wolf, Philip Pullman, Jack Thorne, Tom Hooper, Deborah Forte, Toby Emmerich and Carolyn Blackwood for New Line Cinema, and Ben Irving and Piers Wenger – BBC One
Hooper is lead director of the big-budget adaptation and is helming the first two episodes. The remaining directors of Season two are Dawn Shadforth (Episode 3), Otto Bathhurst (Episodes 4 & 5), Euros Lyn (Episode 6) and Jamie Childs (Episodes 7 & 8).
The deal was struck by BBC Studios Distribution and Endeavor, which co-repped North American rights with the sales arm of the BBC.
Here are detailed character descriptions for the series’ expansive cast:
Dafne Keen as Lyra Belacqua, an adventure-seeking 13-year old from a world that is both like and unlike our own. We meet Lyra as an orphan, having been raised in the sanctuary of Oxford’s illustrious Jordan College. Lyra is desperate to explore with her brilliant Uncle Asriel, until the fates intervene and she ends up on a thrilling and perilous journey of her own. A natural and adept liar, Lyra learns the value of honesty and lies when she becomes the owner of an extraordinary instrument that can tell the truth.
James McAvoy as Lord Asriel Belacqua, a brilliant scholar and a fearless explorer. Asriel is one of few who dare to undermine the powerful forces of Lyra’s world. His ambition is limitless and he will stop at nothing to achieve his ends.
Ruth Wilson as Mrs. Coulter, an enigmatic woman whose origins hold many secrets, and who has gained power in a patriarchal society against the odds. Intelligent and manipulative, Mrs. Coulter always needs to be in control; but her motivations are rarely as they seem.
Lin-Manuel Miranda as Lee Scoresby, an aeronaut-for-hire who can keep his head in a crisis, although he is often getting himself embroiled in trouble.
Anne-Marie Duff as Ma Costa, a fiercely maternal, high-ranking gyptian. The disappearance of her youngest son Billy is the latest of an increasing number of missing children, and acts as a call to action for the gyptian people to find and rescue them.
Clarke Peters as The Master of Jordan College, a man who understands politics and is Lyra’s guardian as she grows up in Oxford.
Ariyon Bakare as Carlo Boreal, an authoritative political figure who works with the Magisterium, but keeps many secrets and knows which ears to whisper into to achieve power.
Will Keen as Father MacPhail, a high-ranking member of the Magisterium whose belief is so unwavering that he will preserve its position at any cost.
Ian Gelder as Charles the Librarian, a learned man and counsel to the Master of Jordan College, who helps to care for Lyra.
Georgina Campbell as Adèle Starminster, a bright and inquisitive journalist who seeks to uncover the truth about the mysterious Mrs Coulter.
Lewin Lloyd as Roger Parslow, the 12-year-old kitchen boy of Jordan College and Lyra’s best friend. Where Lyra is a natural liar, Roger is naturally honest and kind. Roger often acts as Lyra’s moral compass.
Lucian Msamati as John Faa, a plain-speaking warrior and king of the Western gyptians, a close-knit, nomadic and honourable people. John Faa leads a band of brave fighters to action when it becomes clear that the governing forces of their world will not help them get their missing children back.
James Cosmo as Farder Coram, a gyptian and key advisor to John Faa. As an elder member of the community, Coram brings knowledge and wisdom to the gyptians. He is a brave fighter with an extraordinary past.
Daniel Frogson as Tony Costa, the eldest son of the gyptian Ma Costa. At 15 years old, Tony’s daemon has just settled, marking him as having come of age. Tony has a gruff teenage exterior as he tries to step into adult shoes, but is also brave and kind.
Tyler Howitt as Billy Costa, the youngest son of gyptian Ma Costa.
Ruta Gedmintas as Serafina Pekkala, queen of the Lake Enara clan, a 300-year-old witch with ties to the gyptians. Serafina believes that Lyra is the answer to the witch prophecy that will change the course of destiny.
Mat Fraser as Raymond van Gerrit, a gyptian who joins the fight for the missing children but knows it will push their resources and capabilities to their limits, and worries that John Faa is getting them into a fight they cannot win.
Geoff Bell as Jack Verhoeven, a gyptian who is relied upon and trusted in a fight, but who has a chip on his shoulder because of the way that gyptians are treated by the rest of society.
Simon Manyonda as Benjamin de Ruyter, a gyptian and talented spy driven to find the whereabouts of the missing children.