Rebecca Eaton Explains How To Get BBC To Tackle Quintessentially American ‘Little Women’ – TCA


Masterpiece’s Little Women marks a breakthrough for PBS: It’s produced by BBC, which, producer Rebecca Eaton noted, “does not do American drama.”

“It’s hard to get America novels done with BBC because they are BBC – they have a mandate,” she said. Additionally, it can be expensive. “If you shoot in this country, it’s twice as expensive.” Set in Concord, MA, Little Women was filmed in Ireland.

It helped that Colin Callender was “the guy who was going to drive the train” and that Heidi Thomas (Call the Midwife, Cranford) was lined up to write the screenplay, Eaton remarked.

Masterpiece/BBC One

And, she added, the cast would be populated by mostly young Americans in the roles of the young March daughters, but older roles would be cast with “British acting royalty.” Among them, Emily Watson as March family matriarch Marmee, BAFTA Michael Gambon as wealthy neighbor Mr. Laurence and Angela Lansbury as prickly Aunt March. Maya Hawke, daughter of Uma Thurman and Ethan Hawke, is cast in the lead role of Jo March.

Thomas said she accepted Collins’ invitation “with such alacrity,” calling Louisa May Alcott’s book not just one of the most famous in the world but one of the “most loved.” In the UK they wonder why the characters have American accents, she joked.

The 1868-69 novel was written with a surprising amount of dialogue, unusual for its time, Thomas insisted. She kept much of that dialogue, except for colloquialisms that would seemed dated.

Thomas said she had not seen the two silent versions of Little Women that were made but watched the 1933 George Cukor-directed Katharine Hepburn version many years ago. But she did not watch it again, nor did she watch the 1949 version that starred June Allyson, Margaret O’Brien and Elizabeth Taylor or the 1994 version starring Winona Ryder, so as to not have other actors saying any of the book’s lines in her mind. “I just stuck with the book,” she said.

The younger actors got asked what was their favorite Angela Lansbury performance, putting them on the spot and they never answered the question. Lansbury said her favorite was the CBS series Murder, She Wrote in terms of its reach, but her favorite movie was 1944’s Gaslight, which she filmed at ages 17 and 18 and is credited with popularizing the expression “gaslight” to describe psychological manipulation to cause someone to create their own sanity, as Charles Boyer’s character does to Ingrid Bergman’s.

TV critics seemed too starstruck at TCA to ask Lansbury to comment on the reaction she’d experienced to a remark she’d made in an interview last year about the #MeToo movement.

In an interview with Radio Times, the 92-year-old actress said women “must sometimes take blame” in sexual harassment, arguing that making an effort to “look attractive” has “backfired.”

“Although it’s awful to say we can’t make ourselves look as attractive as possible without being knocked down and raped,” she said, “should women be prepared for this? No, they shouldn’t have to be! There’s no excuse for that.”

After strong reaction on Twitter, Lansbury issued a statement saying she was “troubled by how quickly and brutishly some have taken my comments out of context and attempted to blame my generation, my age, or my mindset, without having read the entirety of what I said.”

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