BritBox Unveils Drama Slate: ‘Chernobyl’s Jared Harris Headlines ‘The Beast Must Die’; Irvine Welsh Adapts ‘Crime’ As His First TV Series

The BBC and ITV’s joint-venture streamer BritBox has pulled the curtain back on its first slate of UK drama originals, just weeks after Deadline revealed that Damian Lewis and Dominic West will star in an adaptation of A Spy Among Friends for the streamer.

Building on the Kim Philby espionage thriller, which BritBox is co-producing with Spectrum Originals, the subscription video service has announced three fresh projects — all of which are literary adaptations with British writing, directing, and acting talent at their core. They will premiere in 2021.

First up, New Regency Television and Ridley Scott’s Scott Free Films will make The Beast Must Die, an adaption of the 1938 novel of the same name by Nicholas Blake, the nom de plume of poet Cecil Day-Lewis, father of Daniel Day-Lewis. It tells the story of a grieving mother who infiltrates the life of the man she believes killed her son.

Jared Harris, the Golden Globe and Emmy-nominated Chernobyl and The Crown actor, will headline the five-part revenge thriller, which will also feature The Good Wife’s Cush Jumbo, Billy Howle (MotherFatherSon) and Nathaniel Parker (The Inspector Lynley Mysteries).

Gaby Chiappe (Their Finest) adapted The Beast Must Die for the screen, while Tolkein helmer Dome Karukoski has been attached to direct. Sarada McDermott is the producer. Executive producers are Ed Rubin and Emma Broughton for New Regency, Marina Brackenbury and David Zucker for Scott Free, and Parker and Chiappe.

As previously reported by Deadline, The Beast Must Die was originally in development with the BBC through Scott Free. At the time we noted that the series could turn into a long-running franchise, as Blake/Day-Lewis wrote 15 books featuring detective Frank Cairns.

Next up on the BritBox slate is Crime. The streamer has commissioned Trainspotting writer Irvine Welsh to pen his first TV adaptation, based on his book of the same name. The six-part series will star Mission: Impossible 2 actor Dougray Scott as Detective Inspector Ray Lennox, who is investigating the disappearance of a schoolgirl while battling cocaine addiction and a mental breakdown.

Crime is made by Marcella producer Buccaneer Media, with Tony Wood and Scott producing. Executive producers are Welsh, Dean Cavanagh, Richard Tulk-Hart and James Strong. Cineflix Rights is distributing the series internationally.

Finally, Alex Rider creator Anthony Horowitz’s adaptation of his novel Magpie Murders is also heading to BritBox as part of a co-production with PBS Masterpiece. Deadline revealed the commission on Tuesday.

Magpie Murders revolves around the character Susan Ryeland, an editor who is given an unfinished manuscript of author Alan Conway’s latest novel but has little idea it will change her life. Horowitz admitted that the book “wasn’t easy to adapt” but will result in a drama that will “delight and beguile audiences.”

Reemah Sakaan, group director of ITV SVOD and chief creative and brand officer at BritBox, described the projects, including A Spy Among Friends, as a “smorgasbord of British talent.” BritBox had hoped to launch a number of UK series this year, but is now talking about 2021 as the year it makes its mark in original content. The British operation is independent of BritBox’s presence in the U.S.

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