Exclusive: Writer Peter Harness chats about BBC One’s new ‘Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell’ adaptation

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Adapted from Susanna Clarke’s bestselling novel by Wallander writer Peter Harness, new magic drama series Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell will air on BBC One later this year.

The epic seven-part adaptation will star Bertie Carvel (Restless, Matilda) and Eddie Marsan (Filth) in the lead roles of Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, alongside Marc Warren (Mad Dogs), Alice Englert (Beautiful Creatures), Samuel West (Mr Selfridge), Charlotte Riley (Easy Virtue), Enzo Cilenti (Rome) and Paul Kaye (Game of Thrones).

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Following his recent Doctor Who episode, ‘Kill the Moon’, CultBox caught up with writer Peter Harness for a chat about what to expect from BBC One’s Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell


Is production now complete?

“Very nearly. We’re getting into the final-touches stage now.”


Early release


Did you visit Yorkshire, Canada or Croatia during filming?

“I lived in Yorkshire for four months or so when we were shooting there, and I had a great time. Yorkshire is where I was born and grew up, and it was wonderful to be making this show that I love with my heart and soul in a place that I care about so much.

“We filmed the great majority of it in Yorkshire, with about two weeks each for Canada and Croatia; and I didn’t go to either of them. Mostly cause I’d done the bulk of my work on it by then, and I needed a rest and some family time. And to write Doctor Who.”


Are you pleased with how it looks?

“I am terrifically pleased with how it looks. Toby Haynes, the director and my co-conspirator in shaping and nurturing it, has done an incredible job – utterly magnificent. We’ve had a tremendous team of actors and crew, and they’ve all worked their guts out to get this most challenging and epic of series to the screen in a shape that does credit to Susanna Clarke’s brilliant book.”




How would you sum up the show for viewers who are unfamiliar with the novel?

“It’s like a Jane Austen period drama but with magic and amazing special effects. It’s set at the time of the Napoleonic wars, in a version of England where magic once existed, long ago, but has since died out.

Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell is the story of how magic returns to England, and the two magicians that bring it back. And what goes wrong.”


Could the show return for a second series if it’s popular or has it been envisaged as a self-contained story?

“It’s been very much envisaged as a self-contained story. But I’m hoping that Susanna Clarke will write a sequel one day, because it’s a world that I love, and I would be desperate to return to at some point. And I’d love to read more of her words!”


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