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Masterpiece Classic Theater's "Emma" premieres Sunday


Romola Garai as Emma. PBS Masterpiece Classic publicity photo.

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BBC historical drama fans to your television sets! Yet another adaption of Jane Austen's delightful romantic comedy comes to the states via PBS's Masterpiece Classic. The four episode miniseries is a new version of Emma. The first episode will premiere tomorrow night. Check local listings here.

Emma has long been a fan favorite, in the medium of book, movie and television mini series. Successfully portrayed by Gwyneth Paltrow and Kate Beckinsale, Emma is the quintessential Georgian heroine. Wealthy and well-meaning, she attempts to matchmake every single person she knows, with occasionally tragic consequences. She is so busy fixing people up that she is completely unaware that the perfect man for her is available, madly in love with her, and devastatingly handsome. Romola Garai, who BBC Historical fans will know from her spectacular performance in Daniel Deronda, and gained international acclaim in Atonement, will now be trying her acting chops at one of the most oft-portrayed heroines of Regency fiction.

The character of Mr. Knightley has had girlie-movie fans swooning for years, and as portrayed by Johnny Lee Miller, promises to be no less of a heartthrob in this version. There is something about Mr. Knightley's courtly manners, restraint and wit, not to mention his deep desire for Emma to be the best possible woman she can be, that tugs at our hearts and makes us yearn for that inevitable happy ending. When Welch, the screenplay writer, speaks of Mr. Knightley's character, and why fans love him so much, she says:

"Well, apart from Jonny's obvious appeal [laughs], I think Knightley is absolutely honest and absolutely looking out for Emma. He's not just polite; he takes her on. There's a feeling he is her moral compass. Also he is very funny; they are equal wits and equally intelligent.

I think another part of his appeal is that he has always been there, just up the road. He is her ideal mate in plain sight, but she hasn't realized it yet and she has to grow up. That's the story of the book of course — Emma growing up."

Sandy Welch, the writer who adapted this version, is no stranger to book-to-screen adaptations. Sandy Welch began her work in the film industry at university. She moved on to editing before attending the UK's National Film and Television School, during which time she began writing. In addition to successful literary adaptations (Our Mutual Friend, North & South, Jane Eyre and Emma), Welch has also written several original works including Tears Before Bedtime and Magnificent Seven. Welch lives in London with her two children.

 For more info: Synopses of the episodes are available here.


Mr. Woodhouse
Michael Gambon
Mrs. Woodhouse
Annabel Mullion
Young Emma (aged 3)
Lyla Barrett-Rye
Anne Taylor / Weston
Jodhi May
Mr. Weston
Robert Bathurst
Young Frank Churchill
Teddy Bunn
Mrs. Churchill
Susie Trayling
Young Jane Fairfax
Sarah & Claire Gower
Miss Bates
Tamsin Greig
Mrs. Bates
Valerie Lilley
Emma (7 years old)
Sophie Alibert
Romola Garai
Mr. Knightley
Jonny Lee Miller
John Knightley
Dan Fredenburgh
Isabella Knightley
Poppy Miller
Mr. Elton
Blake Ritson
Augusta Elton
Christina Cole
Henry Knightley
Jamie Glover
James Knightley
Joshua Jones
Mrs. Goddard
Veronica Roberts
Harriet Smith
Louise Dylan
Miss Martin #1
Eileen O'Higgins
Miss Martin #2
Sarah Ovens
Robert Martin
Jefferson Hall
Jane Fairfax
Laura Pyper
Mr. Dixon
Frank Doody
Miss Campbell
Amy Loughton
Frank Churchill
Rupert Evans
Mrs. Cole
Liza Sadovy
Gypsy Boy
Nathaniel Gleed


Production Credits

Written By
Sandy Welch
From the Novel By
Jane Austen
First Assistant Director
Martin Curry
George Ormond
Jim O'Hanlon
Executive Producer for WGBH
Rebecca Eaton
Executive Producer
Phillippa Giles

A BBC WGBH Boston Co-production


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