Great Expectations 2023: BBC One release date, trailer, and cast with Olivia Colman and Fionn Whitehead

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Olivia Colman makes her live-action Dickens debut in a new adaptation of Great Expectations from Peaky Blinders creator Steven Knight

Great Expectations, a new adaptation of the classic Charles Dickens novel, is arriving on BBC One this March. It marks the first television adaptation of Great Expectations since 2011, which is bordering on restraint.

The series, which stars Olivia Colman as Miss Havisham and Fionn Whitehead as Pip, has been adapted by Peaky Blinders creator Steven Knight. This is Knight’s second Dickens adaptation, having previously been behind the 2019 take on A Christmas Carol with Guy Pearce.

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Here’s everything you need to know about Great Expectations ahead of its BBC One release.

What’s it about?

The official BBC One synopsis for Great Expectations explains that the series “is the coming-of-age story of Pip, an orphan who yearns for a greater lot in life until a twist of fate introduces him to the mysterious and eccentric Miss Havisham and Estella, showing him a dark world of possibilities. Under the great expectations placed upon him, Pip will have to work out the cost of this new world and whether it will truly make him the man he wishes to be.”

Is it based on a book?

Yes, it is! Great Expectations was Charles Dickens’ thirteenth novel, which was serialised beginning in 1860 before being published as a collected edition in 1861. It’s one of Dickens’ most celebrated and enduring popular novels.

Who stars in Great Expectations?

Olivia Colman as Miss Havisham in Great Expectations, holding a candle (Credit: BBC/FX Networks/Pari Dukovic)Olivia Colman as Miss Havisham in Great Expectations, holding a candle (Credit: BBC/FX Networks/Pari Dukovic)
Olivia Colman as Miss Havisham in Great Expectations, holding a candle (Credit: BBC/FX Networks/Pari Dukovic) | BBC/FX Networks/Pari Dukovic

Fionn Whitehead plays Pip, the orphan yearning for a better life. Whitehead is probably best known for appearing in Christopher Nolan’s war epic Dunkirk, as well as the interactive Bandersnatch episode of Black Mirror, but you might also recognise him from The Children Act, The Duke, and Inside No. 9. 

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Olivia Colman plays Miss Havisham, a wealthy and eccentric spinster. Colman, of course, is a prolific actor, having appeared in things like Broadchurch, The Crown, and Peep Show. Great Expectations is her first live action Dickens adaptation, having previously only appeared in an animated version of A Christmas Carol.

Shalom Brune-Franklin plays Estella, Miss Havisham’s adopted daughter. You’ll know Brune-Franklin from a recent starring role in the Jamie Dornan thriller The Tourist, as well as from appearing in the final series of Line of Duty

They’re joined by Ashley Thomas (The Ipcress File), Johnny Harris (The Salisbury Poisonings), Hayley Squires (The Essex Serpent), Owen McDonnell (Killing Eve), Laurie Ogden (The Show Must Go Online), Matt Berry (What We Do in The Shadows), Trystan Gravelle (The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power) and Rudi Dharmalingam (The Split).

Who writes and directs?

Great Expectations was adapted by Steven Knight, marking his second Dickens adaptation after his 2019 take on A Christmas Carol. Knight is best known for creating Peaky Blinders, but you might also have seen his recent BBC One war drama SAS: Rogue Heroes. It was recently announced that he’s working on a new Star Wars movie for Lucasfilm.

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Brady Hood and Samira Radsi serve as directors, helming multiple episodes each. Hood has previously directed episodes of Top Boy and The One, while Radsi has previously directed Holiday Secrets and Knightfall.

Is there a trailer?

Yes, there is! You can watch it right here.

When and how can I watch Great Expectations?

In the UK, Great Expectations is set to air on BBC One. The series will begin on Sunday 26 March, taking over the 9pm evening slot previously held by Happy Valley and The Gold. You’ll also be able to watch the series on BBC iPlayer.

In the US, Great Expectations is an FX on Hulu production, meaning you’ll be able to watch it online on Hulu from 26 March and on FX on television at a later date. You can sign up for Hulu here.

How many episodes will there be?

Great Expectations is a six-part series, with each episode around an hour long.

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Has Great Expectations been adapted before?

Yes, it has – quite a few times! Great Expectations was first adapted to film over a century ago in 1917 – a silent film that’s since been lost – but in the time since there’s been a new version more or less every few years. In terms of BBC adaptations alone, there’s been a new Great Expectations in 2011, 1999, 1981, 1967 and 1959. (If anything, really, this Olivia Colman version is slightly ahead of schedule.)

Why should I watch it?

It’s one to check out if you’re interested in a new take on a literary classic – particularly if you’re a fan of Olivia Colman and want to see her play an iconic character like Miss Havisham.

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