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.
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.