BBC to make its first period drama with all non-white cast

Vikram Seth. Photo: Shutterstock
Vikram Seth. Photo: Shutterstock
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The BBC’s first period drama with an entirely non-white cast will begin filming later this year.

Vikram Seth’s novel A Suitable Boy, set in post-partition India, will be adapted into an eight-part series by screenwriter Andrew Davies.

Davies has previously penned several major literary adaptations for the BBC, including Bleak House in 2005 and 2016’s War and Peace.

Piers Wenger, the Corporation’s new head of drama, said: "I’m absolutely thrilled to announce that Vikram Seth’s epic novel A Suitable Boy, set in India in the 1950s, will be adapted for the very first time by Andrew Davies, as we continue to explore new worlds through classic adaptation on BBC1.”

Seth’s 1993 novel is one of the longest English-language novels to have been published. Filming will take place in India.

In March, regulation body Ofcom, which now regulates the BBC after taking over responsibility from the BBC Trust, told the Corporation that it must improve its on-screen diversity “to ensure its newly commissioned content accurately represents, authentically portrays and reflects the diversity of the UK population”.

However, in a letter to culture minister Matt Hancock, MP David Lammy criticised Ofcom for not requiring the BBC to tackle off-screen diversity too.

A Suitable Boy is one several major commissions as part of a drama slate announced by Wenger.

Other programmes include the first UK TV adaptation of HG Wells’ sci-fi novel The War of the Worlds and A Very English Scandal, a miniseries by former Doctor Who writer Russell T Davies.

Wenger has also restructured the drama commissioning team in an effort to “ensure greater plurality of taste and vision”. Seven of the eight-strong team are white.