PBS and MASTERPIECE have announced they will team with Colin Callender’s Playground and the BBC for a television adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s coming-of-age classic, Little Women. The three-part drama will be scripted by Heidi Thomas, well-known to PBS audiences for her acclaimed adaptations of Call the Midwife and Cranford. Vanessa Caswill (Thirteen, My Mad Fat Diary) will direct all three hours. Playground’s Golden Globe-winning adaptation of Wolf Hall aired on MASTERPIECE in 2015.
“There are only a handful of American books that have resonated with readers for as long as Little Women,” said Rebecca Eaton, MASTERPIECE executive producer. “To put this deeply moving story in the hands of a writer with the heart and depth of Heidi Thomas seems just right. And Colin Callender will oversee this production with the magic he brings to everything he touches, whether its Wolf Hall or the play Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, currently selling out in London.” MASTERPIECE is presented on PBS by WGBH Boston.
Loved by generations of women worldwide, Little Women is a truly universal coming of age story, as relevant and engaging today as it was on its original publication in 1868. Set against the backdrop of the Civil War, the story follows sisters Jo, Meg, Beth and Amy March on their journey from childhood to adulthood. With the help of their mother, Marmee, and while their father is away at war, the girls navigate what it means to be a young woman: from sibling rivalry and first love, to loss and marriage.
Set in Concord, Massachusetts, Alcott’s semi-autobiographical story became an instant bestseller when it was published and remains one of the most widely read novels of all time. A recent Harris poll listing it as one of America’s ten favorite books confirms its enduring place in the cultural landscape.
Writer and executive producer Thomas says: “Little Women is one of the most loved novels in the English language, and with good reason. Its humanity, humour and tenderness never date, and as a study of love, grief and growing up it has no equal. There could be no better time to revisit the story of a family striving for happiness in an uncertain world, and I am thrilled to be bringing the March girls to a new generation of viewers.”
“The mini-series is a storytelling form unique to television, and the opportunity to adapt Louisa May Alcott’s novel over three hours is a gift from the BBC and MASTERPIECE on PBS,” said executive producer Callender. “This is a character study of young women rich in texture and detail, and it’s an honour to be able to bring it to life in this extended form with the great Heidi Thomas, one of the finest writers working in television today. In the hands of the exciting directorial style of filmmaker Vanessa Caswill we hope to deliver a new screen version that will speak to contemporary audiences, meet the expectations of the book’s ardent fans and bring a whole new generation to this great classic.”
“Bringing alive this beloved American novel for a new generation of PBS viewers is a dream come true,” said Beth Hoppe, Chief Programming Executive and General Manager, General Audience Programming, PBS. “In the hands of Rebecca Eaton and Colin Callender’s Playground, and with the superb talents of writer Heidi Thomas, we are confident this story of strong women will resonate with both new and longtime fans of MASTERPIECE.”
With a production team from the UK and US, principal photography is set to begin in July and casting will be announced shortly.
Little Women is a Playground production for the BBC and MASTERPIECE on PBS. The producer is Susie Liggat. Executive producers are Colin Callender and Sophie Gardiner for Playground, Heidi Thomas, Rebecca Eaton for MASTERPIECE and Lucy Richer for the BBC.