Great Expectations cast: Who's who in the star-studded BBC adaptation

Everything you need to know about this celeb-filled take on Dickens

Olivia Colman, Fionn Whitehead and Shalom Brune-Franklin in Great Expectations.
Olivia Colman, Fionn Whitehead and Shalom Brune-Franklin in Great Expectations (BBC/FX Networks/Pari Dukovic).

Arriving on Sunday, 26 March at 9pm, the BBC’s new adaptation of Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations is the latest project overseen by Peaky Blinders creator Steven Knight.

It’s also a star-studded series, with Academy Award winner Olivia Colman leading a cast of famous faces that also boasts Dunkirk actor Fionn Whitehead and What We Do In The Shadows’ vampire Matt Berry.

While Dickens' story is no stranger to a telly or stage adaptation, Peaky Blinders’ mastermind Knight has promised to imbue his mini-series with a bit more edge than your average period drama.

Read more: Is Great Expectations worth watching?

Eager to learn more? Here’s all the key information that you need to know about this new take on Dickens’ penultimate novel before hitting sitting down and hitting play.

What is the plot of Great Expectations?

Olivia Colman as Miss Havisham and Fionn Whitehead as Pip in Great Expectations.
Olivia Colman as Miss Havisham and Fionn Whitehead as Pip in Great Expectations (BBC/FX Networks/Miya Mizuno).

First released in novel form back in 1861, Great Expectations tells the story of a young orphan named Pip (Whitehead) whose life changes when he meets the mysterious, wealthy and unpredictable Mrs Havisham (Colman) who bestows him with a fortune and ushers him from a humble background into high society.

Throughout this coming-of-age tale, former orphan Pip must learn important life lessons about what it means to live with a boosted social status and whether it really is the key to a happier life.

Speaking to the Radio Times, Peaky Blinders creator Knight teased that his new take on this familiar story will be filled with a few “saucy lines” delivered by Colman to help it grab the attention of modern audiences.

Read more: Olivia Colman unrecognisable as Miss Havisham

"[Miss Havisham] was written as quite a big role anyway — obviously you’ve got to write it to get the actor — and she’s got to read pretty much beginning, middle and end. But when I knew it was Olivia obviously then you go back and start to enjoy yourself because you can start adding [a] bit more of what Olivia brings.

"She’s just so powerful on the screen," he added. "There’s a couple of things we changed once we knew she would be in the role – a couple of what you’d call saucy lines where you know she’s going to pull it off in a way that it’s going to be just right. And she does."

Who is in BBC’s Great Expectations?

Matt Berry as Mr Pumblechook in Great Expectations.
Matt Berry as Mr Pumblechook in Great Expectations (BBC/FX Networks/Miya Mizuno).

As previously mentioned, Knight’s Great Expectations has an equally great cast, led by The Favourite star Colman as Miss Havisham and Whitehead as lucky orphan Pip.

With Miss Havisham, Colman is invited to play a wealthy spinster who was jilted at the altar and never recovered. As a result, she refuses to remove her wedding dress while living in a dilapidated mansion and devising a scheme for young Pip to fall in love with her daughter Estella.

Whitehead will play Pip, an orphan who yearns for a better life and has his dreams fulfilled by Havisham — but at a cost.

Great Expectations,Generic Portraits,Jaggers (ASHLEY THOMAS),FX Networks,Pari Dukovic
Ashley Thomas as Jaggers in Great Expectations. (FX/BBC)

This duo will be joined by The Tourist and Line of Duty’s Shalom Brune-Franklin who plays Estella, the adopted daughter of Miss Havisham who, unlike Pip, was raised in high society. Star of The Ipcress Files, Ashley Thomas will portray Jaggers, a lawyer who serves as Pip's guardian during his time in London.

Toast of London’s Matt Berry plays Mr Pumblechuck, Pip's pompous uncle who introduces him to Miss Havisham, while This is England’s Johnny Harris steps into the shoes of Abel Magwitch a character who starts off as an escaped convict before turning his life around.

Read more: Cillian Murphy shares Peaky Blinders movie update

Hayley Squires, Owen McDonnell, Rudi Dharmalingam, Trystan Gravelle and Laurie Ogden also star throughout the series in various roles.

When is BBC’s Great Expectations released?

Knight’s Great Expectations airs on BBC One at 9pm on Sunday, 26 March, with episodes continuing weekly.

Is there a trailer for Steven Knight’s Great Expectations?

There is. Our first glimpse at this new series a few months back, featuring our first look at Colman’s take on Miss Havisham. Watch the full trailer below.

Great Expectations starts on BBC One at 9pm on Sunday, 26 March.