TV & Movies

Olivia Colman Had "Saucy Lines" Added Into Great Expectations Just For Her

Let’s just say the expectation is truly great...

by Sabah Hussain, Sam Ramsden and Sophie McEvoy
Originally Published: 
Olivia Coleman in BBC's 'Great Expectations'
BBC/FX Networks/Pari Dukovic

The outstanding Olivia Colman will be gracing our screens yet again, this time as the embittered, wealthy recluse of Charles Dickens's Great Expectations. The Oscar-winning actress has won our hearts with her standout performances in The Crown, The Favourite, and Broadchurch among others, and this time will be treating us with her portrayal of the infamous Miss Havisham, who was jilted at the altar in Dickens’ 1861 novel. Colman is among other massive names to play the spinster who lives in a decaying mansion and never takes off her wedding dress. Gillian Anderson played Miss Havisham in the 2011 BBC adaptation of Great Expectations, and Helena Bonham Carter played the character in the 2012 movie adaptation. Find everything you need to know about the much-anticipated drama, below.

Great Expectations Cast

As mentioned, the six-part BBC series will star Colman as Miss Havisham, while Dunkirk’s Fionn Whitehead will star as Pip, the penniless protagonist who undergoes a rags-to-riches transformation in the classic. Period drama fans may remember when the swoon-worthy Douglas Booth played Pip in the 2011 adaptation of the book.

This Is England’s Johnny Harris, Top Boy’s Ashley Thomas, Line of Duty’s Shalom Brune-Franklin, Killing Eve’s Owen McDonnell and What We Do in the Shadows Matt Berry will also appear in the adaptation alongside Hayley Squires and Trystan Gravelle.

The End of the F***ing World’s Lucy Forbes will serve as lead director on the project, while Tom Hardy, Ridley Scott, and Mona Qureshi are amongst the executive producers.


Great Expectations Trailer

The BBC dropped the Great Expectations teaser trailer on Feb. 6, giving viewers a first look at Colman in the drama’s leading role, and full trailer on Feb. 16. And let’s just say it is giving Peaky Blinders darkness...

Great Expectations Plot

Created by Steven Knight (the man behind Peaky Blinders), and produced by Tom Hardy and Ridley Scott, this adaptation will surely be a winner. While we don’t know much about the show's plot or how closely it will stick to the original book, we know that the bare bones of the story follow the coming of age of an orphan named Pip, who is a blacksmith’s apprentice.

Dickens first released Great Expectations in a series of weekly chapters, beginning in December 1860, before it was published as a novel. It is the second Dickens adaptation to be penned by Knight, following the 2019 series A Christmas Carol.

Speaking to the BBC, Knight explained why he wanted to take on this particular Dickens tale:

"Adapting Dickens’ work is a delight. I chose Great Expectations as the next work to bring to the screen not just because of the timeless characters, but also because of the very timely story. A story of class mobility and class intransigence, told through an intensely emotional and personal first-person narrative. As the son of a Blacksmith myself, Pip’s journey from the forge into society is a very special one to me."

And according to Colman, Knight’s adaptation is a lot darker than the source material. “The first time I read Steven Knight’s script, I thought it was much darker than what I had remembered from school,” she told the BBC. “Quite a few bottom slapping moments, which I did not recall in the original Dickens! There were quite a few changes and I found it quite gripping.”


More gripping? The fact that Knight added a number of “saucy” lines, especially for Coleman. "[Miss Havisham] was written as quite a big role anyway – obviously you’ve got to write it to get the actor – and she’s got to read pretty much beginning, middle and end. But when I knew it was Olivia obviously then you go back and start to enjoy yourself because you can start adding [a] bit more of what Olivia brings. She’s just so powerful on the screen. There’s a couple of things we changed once we knew she would be in the role – a couple of what you’d call saucy lines where you know she’s going to pull it off in a way that it’s going to be just right. And she does."

Great Expectations Release Date

Great Expectations starts on March 26 at 9 p.m. on BBC One and BBC iPlayer, with new episodes airing weekly.

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