Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell: Episode 2

Mr Norrell’s magical illusions baffle the French Navy and win him the loyalty of Sir Walter Pole, but the magic he performed to revive Lady Pole has released something unnatural into Sir Walter’s home – a mysterious unseen Gentleman with thistledown hair.
Jonathan Strange’s magical ability grows, and he comes to London take up an apprenticeship with Mr Norrell. But Norrell is reluctant to share his knowledge and refuses to teach Strange the ancient magic of the legendary Raven King.

Later the two magicians are Continue reading Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell: Episode 2

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell starts 17 May at 9pm on BBC One

1806. Magic once existed in England, but it has long faded – that is until the reclusive Mr Norrell is discovered in Yorkshire.

He comes to London to offer the government his services as a magician – but rising politician Sir Walter Pole refuses to align himself with such a disrespectable art as magic. Disconsolate at his lack of success, Mr Norrell is set to return home, until news comes of the death of Sir Walter’s sickly, and wealthy, fiancée. Mr Norrell makes a dangerous pact with a mysterious Gentleman to restore her to life, proving magic respectable and establishing himself as the greatest magician in the land.

Meanwhile, the charming and dissolute Jonathan Strange, more interested in drinking wine and winning the hand of the beautiful Arabella than reading dusty magical books, discovers that he too has magical powers.

Bertie Carvel as Jonathan Strange

What attracted you to the project?

I’ve wanted to play this part ever since I read the novel, in about 2006. As an acting challenge it is hugely rewarding, since Jonathan Strange’s journey has so many contours: the horizons of his story keep on receding, and he far exceeds anyone’s expectations. In the course of events he grows up several times over, as we do in life.

Had you read the book and if so what were your first impressions?

Yes. I was given it years ago by friends who knew it was exactly my cup of tea. They couldn’t have been more right. It combines so many elements that are dear to me: a sense of humour, history and the literary tradition; myth, magic and the imagination; and now acting! I feel a real sense of destiny fulfilled that I was able to be a part of translating it to the screen.

How do you prepare for a role like this – did you immerse yourself in books about magic? Continue reading Bertie Carvel as Jonathan Strange

Eddie Marsan as Mr Gilbert Norrell

What did you know about Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell before filming begun – had you read the book?

I didn’t know anything about the book when they approached me to play Norrell, but I was fascinated by Peter’s scripts. Once I read the book I was hooked. It’s full of such wonderful, fully realised characters, it’s very Dickensian.

How different is this to other projects you have worked on?

Acting is easy if you are playing such well written characters as Norrell, but the project was so ambitious that trusting Toby and Nick Hirschkorn to fulfil its vision was difficult for me. TV is expanding and the projects are much more adventurous. We’re all kind of pioneers in that sense.

Tell us a bit about the casting process for the role? Continue reading Eddie Marsan as Mr Gilbert Norrell

Marc Warren as The Gentleman with the Thistledown Hair

What attracted you to the drama?

My introduction to the book was unusual. I was having lunch in Cape Town with Richard Madeley and Judy Finnigan and they suddenly said to me, if they ever film Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, you have to play The Gentleman with the Thistledown Hair. This was their favourite book and my first introduction to Susanna Clarke’s extraordinary world. A year later I heard the BBC were dramatising the book so I got myself an audition and got the part. Without that introduction the show would have, no doubt, passed me by.

What was it like playing The Gentleman with the Thistledown Hair?

The Gentleman is a gift of a part for an actor to play. He is a Faerie who reigns over his kingdom of Lost Hope with regality and grace combined with petulance and great selfishness. Alongside this he has hypnotic and magical powers that can induce trance like states that leave women speechless and men reduced to rubble.

Was there anything that was particularly challenging? Continue reading Marc Warren as The Gentleman with the Thistledown Hair

Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell Trailer arrives

1806. Magic once existed in England, but it has long faded – that is until the reclusive Mr Norrell is discovered in Yorkshire.
He comes to London to offer the government his services as a magician – but rising politician Sir Walter Pole refuses to align himself with such a disrespectable art as magic. Disconsolate at his lack of success, Mr Norrell is set to return home, until news comes of the death of Sir Walter’s sickly, and wealthy, fiancée. Mr Norrell makes a dangerous pact with a mysterious Gentleman to restore her to life, proving magic respectable and establishing himself as the greatest magician in the land.
Meanwhile, the charming and dissolute Jonathan Strange, more interested in drinking wine and winning the hand of the beautiful Arabella than reading dusty magical books, discovers that he too has magical powers.

Eddie Marsan and Bertie Carvel cast in Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell for BBC One

Eddie Marsan Cast inJonathan Strange and Mr NorrellBased on the bestselling novel by Susanna Clarke and adapted by Peter Harness (Wallander, Is Anybody There?), Eddie Marsan (Best Of Men, Ray Donovan, Filth) and Olivier award-winning Bertie Carvel (Restless, Hidden, Matilda) take on the magical roles of Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell in this seven-part drama series.

Further casting includes Alice Englert (Ginger & Rosa, Beautiful Creatures), Marc Warren (Hustle, Mad Dogs), Samuel West (Mr Selfridge, Fleming), Charlotte Riley (Wuthering Heights, Easy Virtue), Enzo Cilenti (Prisoners Wives, Rome) and Paul Kaye (Game Of Thrones, Stella).

The series is directed by Toby Haynes (The Musketeers, Doctor Who) and the producer is Nick Hirschkorn (Five Children And It). It is produced by Cuba Pictures (Boy A, Broken) for BBC One and co-produced with BBC America, in association with Feel Films, Far Moor, Screen Yorkshire and Bell Media’s Space. It will be distributed by Endemol Worldwide Distribution.

Set at the beginning of the Continue reading Eddie Marsan and Bertie Carvel cast in Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell for BBC One

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke

Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell

Any book touted as the ‘adult Harry Potter’ runs the risk of attracting critical parries from swords of the double-edged variety. If this wasn’t enough, Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell –the debut novel from Susanna Clarke–also invites comparisons with Jane Austen. Set in the early nineteenth-century, the action moves from genteel drawing rooms—albeit where a mischievous Faerie king sips tea with the wife of a very human government minister, to the bloody battleground of Waterloo, where giant hands of earth drag men to their doom. The juxtaposition of perfectly realised magical worlds and the everyday one with which JK Rowling and Philip Pullman so successfully captured our imaginations and the social comedy of Austen and Thackeray can easily be recognised. But less easy to pastiche is the ability of these writers to induce sheer narrative pleasure, and it is Clarke’s great achievement that she succeeds with this hugely enjoyable read.


Gilbert Norrell is determined to single-handedly rehabilitate his sanitised and patriotic version of English magic, which has suffered a post-Enlightenment neglect after a richly dark history. He ruthlessly secures his place as England’s only magician in two marvellously drawn feats. First, he brings the statutes of York Cathedral to life and then, to facilitate his entry into London society, he brings a young bride-to-be back from the dead–a feat with terrible consequences. However, another more naturally gifted magician—Jonathan Strange—emerges to become his pupil and later his rival. Strange becomes increasingly obsessed with the Raven King—the medieval lord-magician of the North of England and pursues his desire to recruit a fairy servant to the edge of madness. Whilst the differing characters of Norrell and Strange give the book a central human conflict, it is the tension between the dual natures of civilised and wilder magic that lends it a metaphysical texture that shades the narrative with wonderful and troubling descriptions of ships made of rain, paths between mirrors and faerie roads leading out of England to a bleak yet dazzling realm. Fortunately, the precision of her storytelling never reigns in Clarke’s prodigious imagination.

Clarke’s broad canvas of characters—including Wellington, Napoleon and Bryon, locations and tones are masterfully realised. However, sometimes her own enchantment with them leads her to drop her pace, although even at almost 800 pages, this is a book to which you’ll muster up little resistance. Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell is the perfect novel to take up residence in as the nights get longer. — Fiona Buckland