At the TCA’s: Starz Howards End

Coming to Starz in 2018, lush period drama “Howards End” – a four-part dramatic series – will feature an all-star cast including Hayley Atwell, Matthew Macfadyen and Tracey Ullman, Julia Ormond, Philippa Courthard and Alex Lawther. The director is Hettie Macdonald. At the TCA’s, Colin Collander (Executive Producer), Atwell, Macfadyen and Ullman all attended to answer questions about this dramatic limited series, produced in cooperation with BBC.

Collander (“The Dresser,” “The White Queen,” “The Missing” and “The White Princess”) has a long history of period pieces for Starz, so it’s natural for him to bring “Howards End” to the screen. Based on the novel by E.M. Forrester, it’s the story of two independent and unconventional sisters and the men in their lives seeking love and meaning as they navigate an ever-changing world. The script was written by Kenneth Lonergan who won the Academy Award for writing “Manchester by the Sea.”

Hayley was drawn to “Howards End” when she read Lonergan’s script. “(The two sisters) – they’re…emotionally intelligent, and they’re emotional, and they’re multifaceted, and they are self-aware at the same time, and they’re quite extraordinary individuals and human beings. And for E.M. Forster to write this was a huge pull to me, and I think you can feel that within the — Kenny’s kind of — his energy behind it of what he’s doing.”

Edwardian women “moved like us” Atwell said, after doing some research about the time period. “I remember looking at these photographs of Edwardian women, and a lot of the time, of course, back then with photography, they had to remain very, very still for long periods of time so the photo wasn’t blurred. And it was almost like we decided, therefore, that back then, that’s what they were like. In terms of their everyday life, they would be like ghosts.”

But “…then we found these fantastic photographs of them walking into the streets and striding down the street with a cigarette in hand, books under the arm and their petticoats and their skirts kind of flying, and them laughing…”

Costuming is, of course, a huge part of the “Howards End” production but instead of pretty frocks, the outfits match not only the times but also the reality of the characters’ financial situation.

Tracey Ullman mentioned. “Tibby’s trousers were so dull. I remember looking at his costume as he was getting into a cab, and I thought, “Boy, I’ve never seen that on a BBC  production. It’s like it’s falling apart.”

“Yeah. It’s real, isn’t it?” Hayley Atwell replied. 

This lack of gleam adds to the authenticity of the story, which elevates “Howards End” beyond the usual costume drama.

“Howards End” comes to Starz in 2018.