EXCLUSIVE: Here’s a biggie: House and The Night Manager star Hugh Laurie has signed up to write, direct, and executive produce an adaptation of Agatha Christie novel Why Didn’t They Ask Evans? for BritBox in North America.
The three-part limited series represents the BBC Studios and ITV-owned streamer’s biggest U.S. commission to date, and the project will be housed at Mammoth Screen, the Christie specialist behind recent adaptations of And Then There Were None and The ABC Murders, starring John Malkovich.
Laurie has been enamored with Why Didn’t They Ask Evans? since he was a child and the book, first published in 1934, tells the story Bobby Jones and his socialite friend Lady Frances Derwent, who discover a dying man while hunting for a golf ball.
Jones and Derwent turn amateur sleuths as they seek to unravel the mystery of the man, who has the picture of a beautiful young woman in his pocket, and, with his last breath, utters the cryptic question that forms the series’ title. The amiable duo approach their investigation with a levity that belies the danger they encounter.
No word yet on whether Laurie will take a starring role in the show, though Deadline understands that it is hoped he can feature in some form. For now though, the Avenue 5 and Roadkill actor is focused on adapting the novel, in what represents his first major TV drama series in the writer and director’s chair.
“The hairs on the back of my neck haven’t properly settled down from the first time I grasped the beauty of the essential mystery. Since then, I have fallen deeper and deeper in love with the characters, and feel immensely honoured to have been given the chance to retell their story in this form,” he said. “I will wear a tie on set, and give it everything I have.”
Why Didn’t They Ask Evans? premieres in 2022 after Endeavor Content brokered the commission. Endeavor Content will distribute the series outside of the UK, Ireland, and the Americas. BritBox is making itself the home of Christie content after inking a deal with her estate last year to host the most “comprehensive” collection of adaptations in North America.
Mammoth has real pedigree when it comes to Christie and has, in recent years, worked with writer Sarah Phelps to reimagine the great author’s work for the BBC and Amazon, with the most recent effort being last year’s The Pale Horse.
The BritBox original is not the first time Mammoth has tackled Why Didn’t They Ask Evans? after the company adapted the story into a feature-length Marple episode for ITV in 2011. The drama starred Rafe Spall, Richard Briers, and Samantha Bond.
Commenting on the Laurie project, Mammoth’s director of television and executive producer Helen Ziegler said: “His dazzling scripts take the mischief and cleverness of the original novel to a new level, and with Hugh sitting in the director’s chair, this really is going to be an authored treat for Christie fans everywhere.”
Emily Powers, head of BritBox North America, said: “Hugh Laurie’s writing pays homage to the brilliance of the original Agatha Christie mystery while adding fresh wit, humor, and creativity that will appeal to all audiences.”
BritBox’s other North American originals include The Bletchley Circle: San Francisco and co-productions such as Luke Evans’ true-crime series The Pembrokeshire Murders.