We were already excited for the new TV show based on Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series, but the latest casting announcements just upped the ante even more. Following some interesting choices for the show’s main cast, the BBC just revealed that The Watch will gender-flip several key characters including Lord Vetinari, the ruler of Ankh-Morpork.
The Watch draws from Pratchett’s books about the Ankh-Morpork police force, especially the novel Night Watch, a story that combines elements of Les Miserables with fantasy time-travel. Night Watch’s villain Carcer Dun (Sam Adewunmi) is among the main cast alongside protagonist Sam Vimes (Richard Dormer) and other core members of the Watch, but the newly-announced characters include people from other books. By far the most exciting development is British character actor Anna Chancellor (The Hour) as the manipulative tyrant Vetinari, a character who was male in the novels.
ANNOUNCING Anna Chancellor will join the cast of @BBCAmerica's disruptive original scripted series #TheWatch, inspired by Sir Terry Pratchett's bestselling #Discworld novels and beloved characters. Chancellor will play Lord Vetinari. https://t.co/Jts58NtacM pic.twitter.com/NM5yKp6Aqr— BBC America (@BBCAMERICA) November 19, 2019
James Fleet will play the Archchancellor of Ankh-Morpork’s wizard university, while Hakeem Kae-Kazim (Black Sails) will play John Keel, Vimes’ mentor – a character who barely appears in the books, making him an unexpected addition here. Then we have three more gender-flipped characters, signalling that the show won’t the “everyone important is a white man” tone of certain other historical-fantasy dramas.
Ruth Madeley (Years and Years) will play Throat, a new version of Cut-Me-Own-Throat Dibbler, a recurring character in Ankh-Morpork. Bianca Simone Mannie (Homeland) will play Wonse from the first Watch novel Guards! Guards!, and Ingrid Oliver (Doctor Who) will play Dr. Cruces, the head of the Assassin’s Guild.
The show’s lead writer is Simon Allen (The Musketeers), working with directors Brian Kelly, Emma Sullivan, and Craig Viveiros. Following several made-for-TV movies directedly adapted from Discworld novels, The Watch seems like a very different kind of project: A TV series that draws from Pratchett’s source material, but makes major changes in terms of story and casting. From what we’ve heard so far, it sounds like The Watch combines elements of several Ankh-Morpork novels, but with a more diverse cast in terms of race, gender, and sexuality.
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Update 8:15am CT, Nov. 21: A previous version of this post said Rhianna Pratchett was working on the show, but she confirmed on Twitter that she isn’t involved.