May 1, 2023
...novels in the English language comes to MASTERPIECE in a four-part adaptation of Henry Fielding's Tom Jones, giving a new twist to the tale of an illegitimate young man's love for a beautiful heiress. Featuring a torrent of talent, bringing mid-18th-century England to life in all its passion and prejudice, luxury and loose morals.
Two unlikely lovers, a random meet-cute, misunderstandings, and a matchmaking curveball are classic rom com elements you get in the new adaptation of Tom Jones, which skips merrily onto MASTERPIECE on WQPT PBS, Monday, May 22 at 9:00PM. Add elaborate costumes and sumptuous locations to the tale of soulmates finding each other, and you'll discover Tom Jones delivers all the splendor and emotion of a timeless period drama.
Tom Jones is a British period drama not to be missed. Don't take our word for it: The New Yorker, The New York Times, and The Boston Globe all included the new show in their 2023 must-watch lists.
Abandoned as a baby and adopted by a tender country squire, young Tom grows up kind, handsome, free-spirited, and very popular with the ladies. But he cannot escape his lowly birth. When he falls in love with the well-to-do girl next door, and she with him, their families unite against the match. Based on Henry Fielding's classic novel, this is a big-hearted tale of youthful exuberance, stirring romance and betrayals, inherently comedic situations, and two sweethearts bumbling towards each other through mishap after mishap. Will love conquer all?
Solly McLeod (House of the Dragon) stars as the handsome, resourceful Tom Jones himself, with Sophie Wilde (You Don't Know Me) as the charming and feisty love of his life, Sophia Western. Emmy® Award winning actress Hannah Waddingham (Ted Lasso) plays the seductive and vengeful Lady Bellaston, who comes between Tom and Sophia.
Many MASTERPIECE fans will recognize others in the cast, including James Fleet (All Creatures Great and Small, Unforgotten, Bridgerton) as Squire Allworthy, Tom's adoptive father, and Alun Armstrong (Downton Abbey, Dark Angel, Little Dorrit) as Squire Western, Sophia's doting grandfather. Felicity Montagu (The Durrells in Corfu) plays Tom's Aunt Bridget, with James Wilbraham (In My Skin) as Bridget's odious son, Blifil. Sophia's trio of watchful aunts are played by Shirley Henderson (The Mandalorian, Harry Potter), Tamzin Merchant (Carnival Row), and Hannah Waddingham (Ted Lasso). Sophia's worldly-wise servant Honour is played by Pearl Mackie (Doctor Who).
It may be difficult to peel your eyes from our attractive young lovers, but you should: Get a look at those gorgeous period costumes! "We're meant to be set in 1769, so [what we wear] is all absolutely accurate, everything made to measure, every wig, every everything," says Hannah Waddingham, who plays the bewitching Lady Bellaston.
Costumers studied 18th century artwork to investigate what people in that era would wear. They ordered specially made Irish linen and sewed gowns from scratch for the characters of Lady Bellaston and heroine Sophia Western. "We got it down to [making] about a dress every three days," says costume designer Hazel Webb Crozier.
One of the many pleasures in watching Tom Jones is seeing sweeping shots of stately manors, rolling green countryside, and streetscapes evoking an 18th century London. Turns out all the filming for Tom Jones happened in Northern Ireland, a country still rich with classic estate properties and unspoiled fairytale landscapes. Shooting in County Down took advantage of the pristine interior details of the National Trust's 16th century Castle Ward, as well as the fine Georgian properties of both Grey Abbey House and Myra Castle. And Belfast's Upper Crescent was a key exterior location standing in for long-ago London as it features an elegant, curving row of three-story homes in Regency style.
If ever there were a classic novel begging for an onscreen adaptation, it's Fielding's Tom Jones. The 1749 work is considered one of the greatest novels in the English language and brims with colorful characters, adventure, and satirical social commentary. To date, the thousand-plus-page tome has been adapted into two films, two operas, a musical, a theater production, and a five-part 1997 BBC show staring Samantha Morton and Max Beesley. The 1963 film adaptation starring Albert Finney was one of the most critically acclaimed and popular comedies of its time, capturing four Academy Awards including Best Picture. The bawdy title role was a career-defining one for Finney.
Why reimagine Tom Jones now? "MASTERPIECE is known for our adaptations of classic novels," says Susanne Simpson, the drama series' executive producer. "When Mammoth Screen and writer Gwyneth Hughes came to us with this fresh new take on Tom Jones, I knew that we were the right home for it." Hughes herself adds, "Henry Fielding created brilliant characters, fully of their time, but still speaking directly to us in the modern world, as we strive towards our own versions of love and happiness. I've loved writing alongside him."