J.K. Rowling's "The Casual Vacancy" to Debut as Three-part Mini-series on HBO

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24 April 2015
The Casual Vacancy
Photo: Steffan Hill/HBO
"The Casual Vacancy"
Wednesday, April 29 and Thursday, April 30 at 8:00 p.m. exclusively on HBO
            Pagford is a quaint, picturesque town in the Cotswolds, a seemingly idyllic English village with a cobbled market square and ancient abbey. Behind the pretty façade, however, is a town at war: rich vs. poor; parents vs. children; wives vs. husbands; and teachers vs. pupils.

            Based on renowned author J.K. Rowling’s first novel for adults, the three-part miniseries "The Casual Vacancy" debuts its first two parts back-to-back Wednesday, April 29 (8:00-10:00 p.m. ET/PT), followed by the debut of part three the next night, Thursday, April 30 (8:00-9:00 p.m.), exclusively on HBO.
           "The Casual Vacancy" is directed by Jonny Campbell (“In the Flesh,” “Eric and Ernie”) and written by Sarah Phelps (“Great Expectations,” “The Crimson Field”). The talented ensemble of actors is led by Michael Gambon (“The King’s Speech,” the “Harry Potter” series), Julia McKenzie (“Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple,” “Notes on a Scandal”), Keeley Hawes (“Upstairs, Downstairs,” “Ashes to Ashes”), Rory Kinnear (“The Imitation Game,” “Penny Dreadful”), Rufus Jones (“Paddington,” “W1A”), Emily Bevan (“In the Flesh”), Simon McBurney (“Magic in the Moonlight,” “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy”) and Monica Dolan (“Wolf Hall,” “W1A”), and introduces Abigail Lawrie in her acting debut. Paul Trijbits (“Dancing on the Edge,” “Small Island”), Rick Senat (“Birthday”), Neil Blair and J.K. Rowling executive produce; Ruth Kenley-Letts (Academy Award® winner for “Franz Kafka’s It’s a Wonderful Life”) produces.

            The sizeable task of transforming J.K. Rowling’s 500-page novel into three tight one-hour episodes fell to screenwriter Sarah Phelps. Undaunted, she was given free rein by Rowling to reshape the story, bringing to life the rich cast of colorful characters whose lives were mostly told on the page through their thoughts rather than their actions.

            Working with director Jonny Campbell, Phelps developed the characters and themes she felt best fit the screenplay, while ensuring the spirit of the adaptation remained true to the original novel. She was struck by teenager Krystal Weedon’s battle against her personal, social, political and economic environment, and chose to flesh out and spotlight her.
           "The Casual Vacancy" is also the story of a village tearing itself apart, revealing the townspeople’s idiosyncrasies, and addressing social responsibility and one’s response to the poor and disadvantaged. At times darkly funny, it portrays a town whose residents are selfishly stuck in their beliefs and traditions, unaware they have the power to change. This sadly comical selfishness comes to play an important role as events unfold.
            Part 1
            Debut: WEDNESDAY, APRIL 29 (8:00-9:00 p.m. ET/PT)
            Other HBO playdates: May 3 (2:00 p.m.), 8 (noon) and 12 (6:00 p.m.)
            HBO2 playdates: May 6 (8:00 p.m.) and 17 (9:30 a.m.)
            As Pagford Parish Council prepares for a vote on what will become of Sweetlove House – a town institution and community center serving poorer residents – chairman Howard Mollison (Michael Gambon) and his wife, Shirley (Julie McKenzie), who want to turn it into a tourist-destination spa, look to neutralize the threat of everyman council member Barry (Rory Kinnear), a solicitor and defender of the current Sweetlove House mission. When Barry’s sudden death leaves a “casual vacancy” on the council, the race to fill his seat, and determine the fate of Sweetlove, stirs up drama among residents.
            While Howard and Shirley push their submissive son, Miles (Rufus Jones), to run for election, Barry’s friend and doctor, Parminder (Lolita Chakrabarti), rallies behind reluctant school headmaster Colin (Simon McBurney), while Barry’s bullying half-brother, Simon (Richard Glover), looks to capitalize on the family tragedy. Elsewhere, Terri (Keeley Forsyth), Barry’s former neighbor and a struggling meth addict, finds it hard to stay clean, while her troubled daughter, Krystal (Abigail Lawrie), takes drastic measures to help. Later, Simon’s teenage son, Andrew, aka Arf (Joe Hurst), looks to expose the hypocrisy in Pagford by bringing his Uncle Barry back from the dead.
            Part 2
            Debut: WEDNESDAY, APRIL 29 (9:00-10:00 p.m.)
            Other HBO playdates: May 3 (3:00 p.m.), 8 (1:00 p.m.) and 13 (6:00 p.m.)
            HBO2 playdates: May 6 (9:00 p.m.) and 17 (10:30 a.m.)
            As the town of Pagford mourns on the day of Barry’s funeral, candidates for his council seat are shocked to find their darkest secrets revealed online. Amidst struggles with her mom, Krystal recalls a fond memory with Barry and finds herself pursued by a rebellious classmate, Stuart, aka Fats (Brian Bernel). New student Gaia (Simona Brown) takes an interest in Andrew, who faces the consequences of outing his father’s unsavory ways online. Meanwhile, Barry’s widow, Mary (Emily Bevan), crashes a dinner to discuss Sweetlove House; Miles worries about his wife Samantha’s (Keeley Hawes) behavior; and Parminder butts heads with Howard, who is later plagued by visions of his own mortality.
            Part 3
            Debut: THURSDAY, APRIL 30 (8:00-9:00 p.m.)
            Other HBO playdates: May 3 (4:00 p.m.), 8 (2:00 p.m.) and 14 (6:00 p.m.)
            HBO2 playdates: May 6 (10:00 p.m.) and 17 (11:30 a.m.)
            As the council election approaches, Mary tries to talk Colin out of running, while his wife, Tess (Monica Dolan), puts her heart into campaigning. Andrew keeps his distance from home and stands up to Fats, whose interest in Gaia leaves Krystal annoyed. After unbearably close election results, the Sweetlove House matter is swiftly decided, and Miles gets a shock at home. During Howard’s birthday party, Samantha and Shirley have a confrontation about their family, and Arf catches two couples in compromising positions. Finally, after Terri gives in to temptation, a desperate Krystal seeks refuge, precipitating another tragedy that rocks the town.

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