British actor Matthew Macfadyen stars as Arthur Clennam in the new BBC/WGBH miniseries of Charles Dickens Little Dorrit premiering on Sunday, March 29th on PBS. Macfadyen plays a mysterious figure whose return from overseas is prompted by his dying father's last wish, completely transforming the lives of the Dorrit’s.
The charismatic leading actor, who has gained a huge following on the small screen as Tom in Spooks and on the big screen as Mr. Darcy in Pride & Prejudice 2005 with Keira Knightley, says he had no hesitation in accepting the role of Arthur. Here is an interview from the BBC press office.
"This story really blew my hair back," he grins.
"Then when the rest of the casting came through, I couldn't believe my luck. I've been in some sexy casts in my time, but nothing quite like this!"
Matthew, who has also starred in The Way We Live Now, The Project and Warriors, goes on to outline the role.
"It's quite a challenge playing Arthur. At first, I was worried that he's merely the glue that sticks this story together."
"I didn't want him to be drippy or overly passive or always on the back foot. There's always a concern as an actor that you'll be boring unless your character is swinging from a chandelier."
"But once I got into the part, I realised that Arthur is really quite sympathetic."
As it went on, "I discovered him to be richer and richer. He's got genuine depth."
"He's getting on a bit and he's still suffering the after-effects of his awful lonely upbringing at the hands of his terrible mother and father. He's emotionally bereft, and I think people will really feel for him."
Matthew reckons that "audiences will also be intrigued by the mystery element to his story. His father has given him a watch which has this strange message inside and Arthur feels a family responsibility to solve it. It's an old-fashioned whodunit, and it's frightfully intriguing."
As the title indicates, at the heart of the piece is a deeply moving relationship between Arthur and Little Dorrit (Claire Foy).
"That relationship is lovely," Matthew beams.
"It's very poignantly drawn and so true to life about male-female relations. He has no clue that the person who loves him is standing right in front of him."
"Audiences will be shouting at the screen, 'come on, Arthur, you twit! Open your eyes!'"
Matthew relished his scenes with Claire.
"She's totally brilliant. It's a huge task for anyone, but for her to pull it off on her first or second job out of drama school is just amazing. She's also completely down to earth. She's very good news."
The actor was equally excited about appearing opposite one of his idols, Sir Tom Courtenay, who plays Amy's father.
"I did a fair bit with Tom. You can learn so much from watching him - he's an actor to his fingertips. I loved working with him."
"In fact, this whole project has been bliss!"
In addition to the very talented and easy to look at Mr. Macfadyen, Little Dorrit includes a huge cast of exceptional British actors who have also stared in other Jane Austen adaptations such as Judy Parfitt as his stoney mother Mrs. Clennam (Lady Catherine de Bourgh in Pride and Prejudice 1980), James Fleet as Frederick Dorrit (John Dashwood in Sense and Sensibility 1995), Ruth Jones as Flora Finching (Bates’ maid in Emma 1996), Jason Watkins (Rev. Clarke in Miss Austen Regrets 2008), Robert Hardy as Tite Barnacle (Sir John Middleton in Sense and Sensibility 1995), and Harriet Walter as Mrs. Gowan (Fanny Dashwood in Sense and Sensibility 1995).
This sprawling miniseries airing over the next five Sundays on PBS is based on Charles Dickens classic novel Little Dorrit and has been adapted by Andrew Davies who also brought us many Jane Austen adaptations: Pride and Prejudice 1995, Emma 1996, Northanger Abbey 2007, and Sense and Sensibility 2008. It is a riveting mystery/drama/romance set in 1820’s London which will keep you on the edge of your seat, and feed your need for an engaging bonnet drama. Don’t miss it.
Check out these other great resources for Little Dorrit
Masterpiece Classic official Little Dorrit website
Little Dorrit Cast and crew interviews
Little Dorrit episode synopsis
Information on author Charles Dickens
My contribution on Remotely Connected: Little Dorrit: Money can only give happiness where there is nothing else to give
Cheers, Laurel Ann, Austenprose