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A wealthy spinster who was jilted at the altar, Miss Havisham lives in an ancient mansion with her daughter Estella. It’s a role which has been played by a whole host of stars; from Martita Hunt’s 1946 performance in David Lean’s iconic film adaptation, to Gillian Anderson in 2011, to Helena Bonham-Carter’s 2012 interpretation. Now, it’s Olivia Colman’s turn to take on the role, which she likened to a Shakespeare character, explaining that ‘every Shakespeare character is played slightly different by everybody who plays it’. In an interview with the Radio Times, she admitted that she was initially reluctant to play the character ‘because a couple of my good mates had played it and I thought “Oh no”’.

Colman portrays an inventive, dark take on the original Miss Havisham. She looks haggard and pale and has an air of mystery about her. Colman explained to the BBC that, ‘In this version she is an opium addict so she has had a bit of a life – indoors, no sunshine. She adopts a baby, Estella who she ‘sort of trains to be an assassin in a way; to hurt men as much as she was hurt’. 

Costumes with glamorous fashion references

‘There were Galliano references, Vivienne Westwood references,’ says Shalom Brune-Franklon, who plays Estella in the series. ‘So, they were trying to go for something that was a bit more editorial and grungy, not quite traditional. I guess I would describe her style as a weird rotting grunge princess.’ Not only this, but the costumes were done to specifically replicate the darkness the characters embody. ‘I don’t want it dusty and old, I want it rotten. I think Miss Havisham is darker than that, she is rotten on the inside’, said costume designer Verity Hawkes to the BBC. 

A-list behind-the-scenes talent 

The star power isn’t limited to in front of the camera. Executive producers include Sir Ridley Scott (director of Gladiator, Alien, House of Gucci et al.) and Peaky Blinders alumnus Tom Hardy. Executive producer Kate Crowe told the BBC, ‘Obviously Ridley is an icon of cinema so having his input and his lens on things is always really invaluable.’ Fellow executive producer Dean Baker added, ‘It was great to have Ridley read the scripts and get his thoughts, as well as being across the casting and director selection. It’s a privilege to have both Ridley and Tom as part of our creative team.’

Where can I watch it? 

Fionn Whitehead as Pip, Shalom Brune-Franklin as Estella, Olivia Colman as Miss Havisham 

Pari Dukovic/FX Networks

Great Expectations premiers on BBC One and BBC iPlayer at 9pm on Sunday 26 March.