J.K. Rowling’s ‘The Casual Vacancy’ is Becoming an HBO Mini-Series

Published 1 year ago by

Casual Vacancy Cover J.K. Rowlings The Casual Vacancy is Becoming an HBO Mini Series

J.K. Rowling began her relationship with the big screen in 2001, four years after first publishing Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone and embarking on an overwhelmingly successful literary career; the start of the aughts saw her popular, highly praised works adapted for film, launching a series of blockbusters spanning one more entry than its source material. The Harry Potter franchise has, of course, has long since come to a close both on the page and in the cineplex, but there’s no doubt that Rowling has left an indelible mark on both worlds.

Now, she’s turning her eyes to the small screen, working with HBO to bring her first post-Potter work to television. In 2012, Rowling wrote The Casual Vacancy, a novel about political upheaval and class conflict set in England’s rural West Country. The book met with a decidedly mixed response (particularly in comparison to the wildly positive reception enjoyed by each individual Potter tome), but nonetheless sent a message that Rowling isn’t content to be defined as an author by her influential fantasy saga alone.

Today, per a bulletin at THR, Rowling has begun a partnership with HBO – a.k.a. the network behind Game of Thrones, True Detective, and numerous other landmark shows – to translate The Casual Vacancy into a three-hour miniseries. That accord also includes the BBC, who will be co-producing the mini alongside Rowling (a shift in gears following BBC One’s original plan to produce its own adaptation); Rowling herself will executive produce through her own production company, and a rough start date for shooting has been put on the books for this coming summer.

Apart from that, there’s not much else information available about HBO’s take on The Casual Vacancy; Sarah Phelps, author of over fifty episodes of BBC One’s East End soap opera, EastEnders, will pen the script for the series, which will be shot in South West England. Most of what’s known about the project at present stems from the pages of the book, but it’s possible that much of the drama that unfolds across its 503 pages may change in the transition to premium cable.

jk rowling casual vacancy stage J.K. Rowlings The Casual Vacancy is Becoming an HBO Mini Series

The Casual Vacancy‘s plot starts with the death of a beloved Parish councilman in the fictional composite town of Pagford, a tragedy that eventually sets entire hamlet in chaos as townsfolk clash over control of his now vacant seat. More importantly, a furor arises around a nearby council estate – public housing owned by the government – that some believe should be part of Pagford, and others believe should be joined to another local city, called Yarvil. Check out the full synopsis below:

When Barry Fairbrother dies unexpectedly in his early forties, the little town of Pagford is left in shock. Pagford is, seemingly, an English idyll, with a cobbled market square and an ancient abbey, but what lies behind the pretty façade is a town at war. Rich at war with poor, teenagers at war with their parents, wives at war with their husbands, teachers at war with their pupils…. Pagford is not what it first seems. And the empty seat left by Barry on the town’s council soon becomes the catalyst for the biggest war the town has yet seen. Who will triumph in an election fraught with passion, duplicity and unexpected revelations?

Premise alone paints The Casual Vacancy as a yarn that lands well within HBO’s wheelhouse; politics, betrayal, and social warfare play a part in a number of their brands (especially the aforementioned Game of Thrones), so Rowling’s story should be right at home here. Whether or not it plays better through a visual medium is a very real question, though given that the Home Box Office has been on a serious hot streak for years now, it’s not unreasonable to expect something special from this.


The Casual Vacancy is currently in development.

Source: THR

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  1. I might give it a look but it sounds extremely boring like the book unfortunately. I hope they decide to cast Matt Damon and Orlando Bloom, something to spice up the decidedly slow plot (obvious) and make it more akin to young Indiana Jones.

    So far I mean, it just screams out Ann and Green Gables which was another English cable series that was quickly forgotten.

  2. My sister read it and thought it was an awful book. She was really disappointed because she loved all the Harry Potter books.

    • That’s because it’s nothing like Harry Potter, and going in expecting it to be is just the person’s own fault. The book was excellent, it’s just a way different kind of story than Harry Potter.

      • My sister knew it wouldn’t be like harry potter, she is 50 and was lookin forward to JK’s first adult novel. The book had to stand on it’s own two feet, and as far as she was concerned it didn’t. She is a fan of JK’s writing and hoped it would have the same spark.

  3. I read this book and it was definitely a departure from Rowling’s previous works. It wasn’t a bad book, it just wasn’t the type of book I normally read. I probably wouldn’t have picked it up if there were another author on the cover.

  4. It was a decent book but not as good as the follow up novel she released under a pseudonym.

    I imagine the BBC held off on financing it because Ripper Street (their detective show set during the Jack The Ripper murders starring Jerome Flynn and featuring the kind of scenes he enjoys as Bronn in GOT) got low ratings (its main rivals on Sunday nights are both ITV1 dramas, Downton Abbey and Mr Selfridge, starring Jeremy Piven, both hugely successful) and the constant complaints from the public about the BBC spending too much money so they’re deciding to partner up and get help financing new shows that will air on both sides of the pond (similar to Sky Atlantic partnering with Showtime for Penny Dreadful and Canal+ for The Tunnel).

    I can guarantee it will begin with high ratings because of the Harry Potter fans but the majority of them will slip away because like all people who jump onto a popular thing, they’ll ride along with the creator’s next projects until they realise it’s not like the thing they got into in the first place and walk away.

    Unfortunate but true. Some people still remember Ross Kemp as Grant Mitchell from Eastenders, despite the fact he’s filmed his own shows for Sky in the middle of war zones and other dangerous places (sometimes with bullets whizzing inches from his head in Afghanistan or being held up by gunmen in Papua New Guinea and bravely telling them to put the guns down or shoot him because he was annoyed with them for doing that after agreeing to an interview).

    Anyway, someone up above in a comment said Matt Damon and Orlando Bloom. I honestly can’t see that happening at all.

    What’s more likely is great British talent like Olivia Colman, David Threlfall (Frank from Shameless amongst many other shows and movies he’s been in), people like that. Also, being set in the West Country, non-English people here should prepare to hear the West Country accent, as used by James Purefoy in Solomon Kane, Sean Astin in the LOTR trilogy and most of the cast in Hot Fuzz (including Olivia Colman and David Threlfall, who played a police officer and an amateur drama enthusiast respectively in that film).

    • Oh and a trivia note for GOT fans.

      The actor who played Timothy Dalton’s simple-minded muscle in Hot Fuzz (the tall bald guy that only ever said “yarp” and got taken down by Simon Pegg wielding a lamp) plays The Hound in GOT.

      The more you know.

    • The Book was optioned, and is still being produced by the BBC including financing – filming begins in the south west soon.

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