Four Facts About the All-New Making MASTERPIECE Podcast
To honor 50 years of MASTERPIECE magic and more than 400 titles shown on American television, the team that brings you the MASTERPIECE Studio podcast now introduces a special, three-part miniseries called Making MASTERPIECE, documenting the long-running series’ history with interviews from former stars, executives, and more.
Before you listen, get some intriguing facts and interview previews related to what you’ll be hearing in the full episodes. Don’t miss the premiere episode which debuts on February 28, 2021, in the MASTERPIECE Studio podcast feed. Listen to Making MASTERPIECE wherever you listen to podcasts. Watch a video preview for the podcast:
It's not just fans who revere MASTERPIECE — the stars do too.
Some of MASTERPIECE’s most revered actors from over its 50 year history weighed in on their admiration for the series, their iconic MASTERPIECE roles, and American audiences.
Charles Dance, who portrayed Mr. Tulkinghorn in Bleak House, starred in Rebecca alongside the late Diana Rigg, and as Guy Perron in Jewel in the Crown, said his experiences and successes on MASTERPIECE made him more grateful for its existence.
“PBS doesn’t have the resources of HBO and similar channels…its budgets are modest,” he said. And for them to achieve that number of nominations and awards over the years is fantastic and long may continue.”
And what does he think of when he thinks of MASTERPIECE? “I hope it means that on PBS you are likely to see the very best of British television.”
Derek Jacobi starred in I, Claudius, one of MASTERPIECE”s early hits. For the lead actor, his starring role was also a pivotal turning point.
“It was the beginning of any kind of career for me in in America,” Jacobi explained. “They had wanted big names for Claudius, but they decided to trust the director and the producer with whom I had worked and who were my best advocates. And they trusted them enough to go with me. But they were taking a chance on me because I was on the success of Claudius truly began my career in America. … And over the course of the years, I did five plays on Broadway very successfully and all that is down to Claudius.”
From there, Jacobi would earn starring roles in films such as Gladiator and Gosford Park, and later returned to MASTERPIECE in 2019 as the Bishop in Les Misérables.
Some MASTERPIECE actors started as fans first.
Downton Abbey and The Chaperone star Elizabeth McGovern has not only starred in MASTERPIECE, but watched it as a child. “I grew up in one of those homes where MASTERPIECE was my parents’ idea of the only TV that existed. And the tradition that I always remember…my granny, who lived in a little cottage in the back garden of our house in Encino, would come up once a week and we would set up folding chairs in the kitchen… And we would watch Upstairs Downstairs when I was a kid and that was it. That was a special occasion for us. So, yeah, it was it was part of my history.”
Even still, McGovern can’t believe her transition from longtime fan to starring in one of the most recognizable programs in MASTERPIECE history. “The fact that that I am now here in the U.K. and then am in a show that is a kind of owes everything to Upstairs Downstairs in so many ways is a miracle beyond my wildest imagination. And it wasn’t even something I really even set out to achieve. I didn’t even know how it happened. Actually, it’s, you know, that weird thing we call fate. Very strange.”
From screenwriters to stars, executives and more, you'll get an insider's view of MASTERPIECE.
The documentary podcast is chock full of insider interviews, from former producers to big name stars and more. MASTERPIECE Studio (and Making MASTERPIECE) host Jace Lacob was particularly thrilled for the chance to take an even deeper dive into the world and rich history of MASTERPIECE.
“Having covered MASTERPIECE first as a critic and reporter (and more recently as the host of MASTERPIECE Studio), getting the opportunity to take a deep dive into MASTERPIECE’s 50-year history has been an honor,” he said. “Over the course of Making MASTERPIECE’s three-episode run, we interview everyone from the boldface names you’d expect — like Sir Derek Jacobi, Hugh Bonneville, Charles Dance, Glenda Jackson, Rufus Sewell, and Andrew Davies — to the executives who birthed the series and steered the ship along the way, as well as scholars and critics, and even a former FCC Chairman. Working on Making MASTERPIECE has been a true labor of love, and I’m excited to take listeners along on this twisty narrative as we travel down some unexpected routes. Here’s to 50 more years!”
Find out the backstory of MASTERPIECE's longest-running host.
Though a number of notable hosts have introduced the series over the years, including Laura Linney, Alan Cumming, Russell Baker, and more, there’s one that held the title longer than any other, whose name is almost synonymous with the series itself — Alistair Cooke. Cooke hosted from 1971 until 1992, a whopping 21-year run —one that nearly didn’t happen.
“[Alistair Cooke] is transatlantic. He was born on that big white wave in the middle of the Atlantic. And he straddles the ground between America and England in a way that no one else, quite honestly, no one in the world did in those days or indeed does today,” former Executive Producer Christopher Sarson recalled. “It’s quite extraordinary…I called his agent and his agent consulted with him and said, ‘No, he absolutely wouldn’t do it.’”
Nearly a month before the premiere of Masterpiece Theatre, Cooke was having Thanksgiving dinner with his family, who luckily convinced him to take the job. The rest, as they say, was history.