BBC America is getting deeper into scripted territory with a new miniseries based on English fantasy writer Susanna Clarke's 2004 bestseller Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, a nearly 800-page tome set in the 19th century about two wizards who believe that magic is going to return to England. The series starts filming this summer and is set to premiere next year.
The adaptation will be written by Peter Harness, who adapted Swedish novelist Henning Mankell's Wallander novels for British TV, and will be directed by Doctor Who and Sherlock vet Toby Haynes. Endemol Worldwide will distribute the series; Cuba Pictures will co-produce for the BBC alongside BBC America. Sci-fi and fantasy content has done notably well for BBC America; its broadcast of the most recent Christmas special was its highest-rated telecast ever.
In recent years, BBC America's scripted offerings have grown by leaps and bounds—the network's first original, a cop show from Tom Fontana called Copper, will see its second season air in June. The critically lauded newsreader drama The Hour was a co-production with BBC proper as well. Coming up, BBC America co-produces a contemporary take on Alexandre Dumas' The Three Musketeers called simply The Musketeers (starring Peter Capaldi of In the Thick of It) and a zombie series called In the Flesh.
And of course, there's Orphan Black, a sci-fi series that premiered last Saturday, which the BBC is supporting with a significant out-of-home ad push all around New York. Jonathan Strange will be BBC America's latest addition to the "Supernatural Saturdays" block of which Orphan Black and Doctor Who are a part. The book was long listed for the Man Booker Prize in 2004 and won sci-fi's Hugo award.