'Les Miserables' becomes a television 'Masterpiece' on PBS

  • Dominic West, left, stars as Jean Valjean and David Oyelowo as the obsessed Javert in the "Masterpiece" presentation of "Les Miserables" on PBS.

    Dominic West, left, stars as Jean Valjean and David Oyelowo as the obsessed Javert in the "Masterpiece" presentation of "Les Miserables" on PBS. Courtesy of PBS

 
By Jay Bobbin
Gracenote
Posted4/14/2019 7:28 AM

The latest version of "Les Miserables" has something it didn't while it was being filmed: an Oscar-winning star.

Olivia Colman earned an Academy Award as best actress for "The Favourite" after completing PBS' "Masterpiece" retelling of Victor Hugo's classic about desperate thief Jean Valjean (Dominic West) and his dogged nemesis, Inspector Javert (David Oyelowo). Colman and Adeel Akhtar portray Madame and Monsieur Thenardier in the BBC coproduction, also starring Lily Collins as Fantine and beginning its six-part run on WTTW at 8 p.m. Sunday, April 14.

 

For its newest incarnation, "Les Miserables" was adapted by two-time Emmy winner Andrew Davies. He admits he never read the Hugo novel before getting the assignment, adding that after he did, "I thought it was a terrific story that resonated so much with the world we live in today."

Oscar winner Olivia Colman stars as the conniving Madame Thenardier in the "Masterpiece" presentation of "Les Miserables" on PBS.
Oscar winner Olivia Colman stars as the conniving Madame Thenardier in the "Masterpiece" presentation of "Les Miserables" on PBS. - Courtesy of PBS

A racial element exists between the central enemies in the new "Les Miserables," and Oyelowo (also one of the drama's executive producers, as is West) notes, "Contrary to some popular belief, not every black man living in Europe in the early 1800s was some kind of slave or subservient in some way. Napoleon had black generals in his army. I am always looking for ways to shake things up for myself. I have had the opportunity to play a number of virtuous, good men in my career, and I was kind of fascinated by this character who is so obsessed in his pursuit of another human being."

As for playing the pursued, West reflects, "Victor Hugo said this story will have meaning so long as there is poverty. He probably didn't think that 150 years later, there would be so much ... but the gap between rich and poor, which was so obvious then and led to the French Revolution, is now much bigger. Therefore, poverty is still very prevalent. And the idea of centering on the weak, the dispossessed, and writing a novel about the people who are not the strong leaders or the fortunate is still quite revolutionary."

• • •

"Les Miserables"

Premiering at 8 p.m. Sunday, April 14, on WTTW

0 Comments
                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 
Article Comments ()
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.