BBC America’s Discworld miniseries The Watch just announced its main cast, adapting Terry Pratchett‘s novels about crime and local politics in the fantasy city of Ankh Morpork. Northern Irish actor Richard Dormer will star in the lead role as grizzled and cynical police commander Sam Vimes.
Game of Thrones fans will recognize Dormer as Beric Dondarrion, but he also has a long career on stage and screen, most recently starring in the arctic thriller Fortitude – also as a local police chief, albeit a much less likable one than Vimes.
Jo Eaton-Kent, a genderfluid actor, will play Constable Cheery, a forensics expert whose role in the Discworld universe is roughly analogous to being transgender. (This tweet from one of the writers suggests that The Watch will include more LGBTQ+ content than Pratchett’s novels.) Adam Hugill will play the heroic Captain Carrot, and Maltese actress Marama Corlett (The City and the City) will play the werewolf Angua. Lara Rossi will play Vimes’ wife Lady Sybil, and Sam Adewunmi plays the villain Carcer Dun, indicating that The Watch takes some inspiration from Night Watch, one of the most political of the Vimes novels.
Richard Dormer leads cast in @BBCAMERICA comedy thriller The Watch with Adam Hugill, @EatonKentJo, @MaramaCorlett, @theonlyrossi, @samuelfadewunmi joining @bbcstudios & @Narrativia_Ltd production inspired by Sir Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series.https://t.co/GVwQEM7WC0 pic.twitter.com/WIyHAr7FBp
— BBC Studios Press Office (@BBCStudiosPress) September 11, 2019
The BBC’s press release also announced the writing team joining showrunner Simon Allen: Joy Wilkinson (Doctor Who), Catherine Tregenna (Torchwood), Amrou Al-Khadi (Little America) and Ed Hime (Skins). Craig Viveiros (And Then There Were None) will direct the eight-episode miniseries, which starts filming this month.
While there have been several made-for-TV Discworld movies already, none of them fully captured the books’ combination of fantasy, humor, and dark political satire. The Watch may be a better fit for TV, because it can use the familiar framework of a police drama to explore the Discworld setting. The Watch novels are among the most popular of Pratchett’s sprawling Discworld universe, following Vimes’ career as the city evolves around him. With a realistic attitude to discrimination and corruption in law enforcement, they subvert a lot of gritty crime-fiction tropes, and parody everything from Sherlock Holmes to Les Miserables to real historical events.
Showrunner Simon Allen describes The Watch as “a hopeful show that believes it’s better to light a candle than curse the darkness.”