Tom Burke and Holliday Grainger speak about the BBC's latest crime series, Strike
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At a special preview event at the BFI Southbank on Thursday, the actors and creative team of the BBC's latest drama series spoke about the challenges of bringing a story by one of the world's most famous authors to the small screen. Strike is a new three-part crime drama based on the novels by Robert Galbraith - otherwise known as Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling. Following a screening of the first episode, The Cuckoo's Calling, actors Tom Burke and Holliday Grainger were joined by writer Ben Richards, director Michael Kellior and executive producer Ruth Kenley-Letts to discuss how they brought Cormoran Strike to life. The intellectual property of such a huge writer is hard to come by, especially when there's so much competition in the industry. When asked about how the series ended up as a TV series on the BBC, Bronte Productions' Ruth Kenley-Letts said that it seemed like the "natural" choice. "Neil Blair [Rowling's agent] did get a number of calls from Studio and Hollywood and lots of people, actually, but because we knew that J.K. Rowling is planning on writing quite a few books in this series - we still don't know how many - it just lent itself to TV, and when the BBC said that they'd be really keen to commission it, we chose to go that route." Having found a home for the material, the next step was finding the right team to bring Cormoran Strike to life. "Ben Richards, who has adapted it - he and I worked together previously on The Tunnel," said Kenley-Letts. "Ben popped into my head because he's a brilliant writer who is particularly good at doing both character and genre, and this felt like a book that needed both. Then Michael came on board, along with all our HoD's, and it all came together from there." Speaking of adapting the Galbraith novels, Richards revealed the challenges that he faced: "There are a number of challenges about adaptation; it's about keeping the essence of the book, the essence of the story, whilst making it suitable for the slightly different demands of television in terms of pace and shape. The characters were fine - they were faithful to the brilliant characterisations in the book." "It was more a case of making sure that [the books] fit into three hours of television and the ordering - which was something we had ongoing discussions with J.K. Rowling about. It was mainly logistical stuff - there are a lot of characters in the books, so we had to have fewer characters to make it more easily accessible, particularly in the third episode. So, the big challenge was how do you do that, whilst staying true to the book? And I really think we managed to do that with the amazing support of Tom and Holliday by making those characters come alive - they are the essence of this series." In the series, Tom Burke leads the cast as Cormoran Strike - a war veteran turned private detective, who also happens to be the estranged son of a famous rock star. Casting such a larger-than-life character proved tough - particularly as readers have developed such a clear-cut image of the sizeable character. When asked whether the character's perceived size was an issue, Burke disagreed. "I think when you read a book instead of a script, you come at it from a slightly different angle. I've played all sorts of parts - I was aware that he had a size to him, but it's something you can do if you do it in an imaginative way." Quipping in, Kenley-Letts added: "I have to admit, after I read the books, I did google 'tall British actors over 6 ft"2' - there weren't that many!"
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