First Look: BBC America’s Musketeers!

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Musketeers is BBC America’s contemporary take on the characters created by Alexandre Dumas – contemporary take not meaning contemporary setting. The series is set in 17th Century Paris, where ‘where law and order is more of an idea than a reality.’ The classic story of D’Artagnan’s search for justice leading to his encountering Athos, Aramis and Porthos – musketeers and bodyguards to King Louis XIII – is a swashbuckling adventure that continues to fascinate more than a hundred and seventy years after its writing.

The fresh new take is led by writer/producer Adrian Hodges (Primeval) and is set to premiere on Sunday, June 22nd (9/8C). Follow the jump for a look at the series – cast, production team, guest stars, series and episode descriptions and an introduction by creator Hodges.

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A fresh and contemporary take on the classic characters created by Alexandre Dumas in his much-loved novel

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BBC AMERICA’s new co-production drama series, The Musketeers, is set on the streets of seventeenth century Paris, where law and order is more of an idea than a reality. In addition to being King Louis XIII’s personal bodyguards, Athos, Aramis and Porthos stand resolutely for social justice, honor, valor, love – and for the thrill of it. The 10-part season (10 x 75mins), created by Adrian Hodges (My Week With Marilyn, Primeval), premieres on BBC AMERICA Sunday, June 22, 9:00pm ET and a second season will air in 2015.

Luke Pasqualino (Skins, The Borgias) stars as D’Artagnan alongside Tom Burke (Great Expectations, The Hour) as Athos, Santiago Cabrera (Merlin, Heroes) as Aramis and Howard Charles (Royal Shakespeare Company) as Porthos. Peter Capaldi (Doctor Who, The Hour, The Thick Of It), Maimie McCoy (Loving Miss Hatto), Tamla Kari (Cuckoo, The Inbetweeners Movie) and Hugo Speer (Bedlam) also star.

D’Artagnan, a skilled fighter from rural Gascony, meets the three Musketeers while on a mission to right the wrong of his father’s death. Although he meets the men in unfortunate circumstances, he finds kindred spirits in the other soldiers. Athos, who has rejected his noble roots to become a Musketeer, quickly befriends D’Artagnan, but has a past which is shrouded in mystery, and is prone to getting in trouble.

Porthos is a larger-than-life character, who has come from humble beginnings to become a soldier in the most elite regiment in the land, finding a family in the other Musketeers. Never short of admirers, Aramis has an effortless charm which leads him in and out of love. Despite this, he is a shrewd pragmatist who is ferocious in battle and commands a key place in the brotherhood.

Constance Bonacieux (Tamla Kari) leads a dull but comfortable life married to a cloth merchant, but her life is turned upside down when D’Artagnan tumbles into her world, and she becomes involved with the Musketeers.

Cardinal Richelieu (Peter Capaldi), while striving to achieve his vision of a thoroughly modern France, is a shadowy character who will stop at nothing to achieve his objectives. Milady (Maimie McCoy) is the Cardinal’s secret weapon, the most mysterious and beautiful of villains whose motives are often concealed.

The King relies on the advice of the Cardinal, his shrewd wife Queen Anne and also Captain Treville (Hugo Speer), the brave and respected commander of the Musketeers who keeps an eye on the soldiers to ensure they stay out of trouble. The series bursts with escapism, adventure and romance and is set to thrill audiences with riveting stories every week.

INTRODUCTION by Adrian Hodges

Our new series of The Musketeers is based on the famous characters created by Alexandre Dumas – D’Artagnan, Athos, Porthos and Aramis, some of the most evocative names in all fiction, names synonymous with adventure, heroism, courage and self-sacrifice. This new version is not an adaptation of the book, but rather a series of new adventures sometimes inspired by the novel, sometimes by the events of the period, and sometimes by more contemporary issues given a historical spin. Why not attempt a new adaptation? Of course that was an option, but there have been many, many versions of the book’s justly celebrated story – some wonderful, some not so wonderful – and I simply felt the time was right to do something different with the founding myth of the Musketeers and to do what Dumas himself did with history – respect it, use it wisely, but also have fun with it. I hope Dumas’s spirit will forgive us the liberties we take in this new set of variations on the classic story he created; at all times we tried to be faithful to the spirit of his writing, though clearly not to the letter.

So why The Musketeers and why now? It seemed to me that although the adventure genre, however broadly defined, has remained evergreen in the cinema, it had been a long time since I’d seen anything of this kind on TV, at least outside of the family slots and dark hybrid fantasies like Game of Thrones. Have we as an audience grown bored with the ideas of courage, selflessness, romance and heroism associated with the genre? I seriously doubt it. I suspect, and hope there is a serious appetite for this kind of material amongst the TV audience, something different to police and hospital shows (good as those often are), something that isn’t science fiction but which does take place in a world wildly different and infinitely more exotic than our own.

Perhaps the problem is that the whole notion of "Swashbuckling" has become fraught with cliché and is full of traps for the unwary. Too often swashbuckling has become a kind of code word for insubstantial characterization, endless swordfights which have little or no consequence, and a kind of old-fashioned approach to storytelling which is dull and encrusted with period trappings and lame jokes. To put it simply, too often the adventure genre is lightweight and disposable. It just doesn’t have enough weight to captivate a modern audience which is perhaps more cynical and certainly more aware of storytelling tricks than any before it.

There are a number of ways to update the genre; you can tease affectionately – as in Pirates Of The Caribbean – or simply transpose everything we used to associate with the swashbuckler and put it in a different genre, as with almost any of the Marvel superhero films or most Westerns and space set films. But what I wanted to do was take the genre seriously, provide everything the audience expects from it – period detail, sword fights, muskets, brave and romantic heroes and heroines, enormous risks, rescues at the last minute and so on  – and also come up with something that felt, dare I say, relevant.

In other words I wanted to write something that wasn’t jaded or cynical, and which felt like it mattered, but which also felt modern, exciting and involving, while always trying to respect the conventions of the genre. I didn’t want to write something that was pastiche or satire, nor something that was po-faced and glum. After all, if The Musketeers isn’t romantic, action-packed fun, then what is it?

There are a number of ways to tackle the concept of modernity in a television adventure drama – Sherlock‘s successful updating is certainly one that stands out. But that kind of outright conversion to the modern era didn’t feel right for The Musketeers; I’m not sure the concept could really make sense outside of its original setting. So right from the start I decided we had to keep the framework everyone knows but then bring a certain modern attitude to it, something that acknowledges all the conventions of the genre, while also playing with them, sometimes humorously but never in such a way that we fail to show respect. I love this genre; I don’t want to mock it. I just want it to seem as much fun to modern audiences as it did to me when I first saw Richard Lester’s wonderful version back in the early 1970s.

My most essential job was to look at the famous characters and give them a fresh look and feeling. Of course all the characteristics we expect from these four famous names are here but hopefully in ways that will surprise and intrigue. It was a case of looking at the characters in exactly the same way as I would any others I try to create – who are they, really? What matters to them? What secrets do they keep? What world do they live in? What is the true cost of heroism? It’s about making them people a modern audience readily recognizes and understands; heroes, definitely, but heroes who are not straightforward, who are very human and who recognize that every time they draw their swords, someone, perhaps even them, might die. And die for real. Above all I want these stories to matter to the audience; I want them to care passionately about the fate of our leading men and women, to feel invested; that way the adventures our characters face really mean something, and every sword fight, every ambush, every romance has real consequences in a world where there are enormous stakes to play for. But at the same time humor is written into the DNA of these characters and I’ve tried very hard to honor that aspect of the original in ways that will please a modern, sophisticated TV audience without ever taking them out of the reality of the drama they’re watching. The Musketeers is a drama; not a comedy, not a pastiche, not a pantomime. Everything about the detail of our world and our characters is as authentic as we can make it, because in the end, if an adventure doesn’t feel real, what’s the point of it?

When I started this introduction I promised myself I’d avoid glib or too easy summaries of what we’re attempting with this show. But then again, why not? The Musketeers is a swashbuckler with teeth. And hopefully it bites hard and deep.

Adrian Hodges

CAST AND PRODUCTION CREDITS

D’Artagnan – Luke Pasqualino (Skins, The Borgias)                        

Athos – Tom Burke (Great Expectations, The Hour)

Aramis – Santiago Cabrera (Merlin, Heroes)

Porthos – Howard Charles (Royal Shakespeare Company)

Captain Treville – Hugo Speer (Bedlam, Father Brown)

Cardinal Richelieu – Peter Capaldi (Doctor Who, The Hour)

Milady – Maimie McCoy (Loving Miss Hatto, The Last Witch)

Constance Bonacieux – Tamla Kari (Cuckoo, The Job Lot)

King Louis XIII – Ryan Gage (The Hobbit)

Queen Anne – Alexandra Dowling (Game of Thrones, Hammer of the Gods)

Guest casting includes:

Vadim – Jason Flemyng (Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels)

Marsac – JJ Feild (Captain America: The First Avenger)

The Duke of Savoy – Vincent Regan (Snow White and the Huntsman)

Charon – Ashley Walters (Inside Men)

Émilie De Mauvoisin – Anton Lesser (The Hour)

Agnés – Amy Nuttall (Downton Abbey)

Marie De Medici – Tara Fitzgerald (Waking the Dead)

Ninon De Larroque – Annabelle Wallis (X-Men: First Class)

Alice Clerbeaux – Zoe Tapper (Mr Selfridge)

Labarge – Vinnie Jones (Snatch)

Sarazin – Sean Pertwee (Elementary)

Creator and Lead Writer – Adrian Hodges (My Week With Marilyn)

Executive Producer – Jessica Pope

Producer – Colin Wratten

Directors – Toby Haynes (Ep 1, 2)

                Saul Metzstein (Ep 3, 5)

                Richard Clark (Ep 4, 7)

                Andy Hay (Ep 6, 9)

                Farren Blackburn (Ep 8, 10)

The Musketeers is a BBC Drama Production for BBC One, co-produced by BBC AMERICA and BBC Worldwide.

CHARACTER DESCRIPTIONS

D’ARTAGNAN (Luke Pasqualino)

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D’Artagnan is charismatic, impulsive and ridiculously brave with a fierce appetite for justice.

Although still young, D’Artagnan has seen enough of the world to despise its corruption and compromise. Raised in the country and trained as a fighter since he was a boy, only Athos can match his exceptional skill with a sword. Athletic and determined, he is also intensely romantic, with a moving capacity for true love. In time D’Artagnan will go on to be the greatest Musketeer of them all and a legend in his own lifetime.

ATHOS (Tom Burke)

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Athos is brave, resourceful and a natural leader of men. But he nurses a dark secret in his past.

A brilliant swordsman, Athos is the glue that binds the Musketeers together. His character commands respect. At first sight he can appear arrogant but his offhand manner disguises a deep capacity for friendship. He is wryly humorous and engaging but during bouts of solitary drinking he has the capacity to hit the self-destruct button. At these times, the bottled-up darkness from his past threatens to engulf him.

ARAMIS (Santiago Cabrera)

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Charming but deadly, a great lover and a great fighter – Aramis is a man of fascinating contrasts.

Handsome, a loner by nature but a faithful friend, Aramis is a complex figure. His love of women is notorious but he is very far from being a routine womanizer. His effortless charm means that he is never short of admirers – not even the Cardinal’s mistress is off-limits, but it has deadly consequences. A brilliant shot, Aramis has a ruthless streak but also the most romantic heart of the Musketeer brotherhood. He possesses a deep insight into human nature and puts his faith in a deity who understands and forgives its many contradictions.

PORTHOS (Howard Charles)

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A great fighter, a loyal friend and a man who lives life to the full.

Raised in desperate poverty and triumphing over every kind of adversity, Porthos has finally found his true family in the Musketeers. Intensely loyal to his friends and a natural fighter, he is the go-to guy for hand-to-hand combat and the man you always want on your side in a fight. Self-educated, as quick in thought as he is in action, Porthos has a lively sense of humor but is not a man to cross.

CARDINAL RICHELIEU (Peter Capaldi)

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Scheming, ruthless and pragmatic, the Cardinal is the most powerful man in France.

In the eyes of the Musketeers, he is a villain and a power-hungry dictator whose ultimate aim is nothing less than complete control of France. But in his own eyes the Cardinal is bringing much needed order to an outlaw society. He knows the King’s weaknesses all too well and understands that someone must take on the burden of government in his place. But nevertheless, in his own way, the Cardinal is loyal to the crown. Dry and witty, capable of great charm, he is also calculating and mercilessly cruel in implementing his vision. Despite his cool exterior the Cardinal is a man of carefully hidden passions.

MILADY (Maimie McCoy)

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The most mysterious and beautiful of villains, Milady de Winter is the Cardinal’s secret weapon – a deadly and merciless assassin.

Brought up in poverty, Milady is a sensual and beautiful woman who ruthlessly uses her charms to achieve her aims. Possessed of a sharp wit, an unbridled sexuality, and a burning need for vengeance, Milady is linked to the Musketeers by a dark secret. How far will she go in her quest to destroy them?

CONSTANCE (Tamla Kari)

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Yearning for escape from her uneventful marriage, Constance finds excitement, romance and danger when D’Artagnan comes crashing into her life.

Constance leads a comfortable but dull existence with her cloth merchant husband Bonacieux. But after meeting D’Artagnan she becomes an integral part of the Musketeers’ adventures and a resourceful ally and companion. Constance is a joy – funny, gorgeous, earthy and fearless. The day will come when she will be sorely tested and forced to choose between her loyalty to her husband and her undeniable attraction to D’Artagnan – but for now she is having the time of her life.

CAPTAIN TREVILLE (Hugo Speer)

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A legendary soldier, Treville is now Captain of the Musketeers, a close advisor to the King, and a man of absolute honour and integrity.

To the Musketeers, Treville is both commander and father-figure; their adoration and respect for him knows no bounds. Leading by example, Treville’s authority is unquestioned. He orders the Musketeers’ missions, keeps an eye on their welfare and tolerates their regular scrapes and misadventures. Treville is good-humored but brusque and not a man to suffer fools lightly.

KING LOUIS (Ryan Gage)

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Good-natured yet weak, intelligent but lazy, King Louis is the absolute ruler of France.

Torn between the inexorable pull of his First Minister, Cardinal Richelieu, and the blunter but well-meaning advice of Captain Treville, Louis wants to be a good king but lacks the essential determination and seriousness the role requires. Louis remains loyal to his Musketeers and supports them when he can but is easily influenced against them by the scheming Cardinal. He finds it easiest to leave the day-to-day running of the country to others while he indulges himself with hunting and dining.

QUEEN ANNE (Alexandra Dowling)

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Passionate and strong-willed, Queen Anne yearns for a romantic escape from her waning marriage to the King.

Anne is a clever and enterprising young woman who would dearly like a stronger place in her husband’s affections and a role in the government of France. But it is increasingly clear that Louis has little interest in her. He regards Anne as too serious and is intimidated by her cleverness and wit. Although she is loyal to her husband, Anne is increasingly attracted to the dashing Musketeers Aramis. After nearly ten years of marriage, Anne remains childless and is intensely conscious of her need to produce an heir to secure the succession and safety of France. Outwardly calm, Anne is in truth a far more volatile and impulsive woman than she first seems.

EPISODE SYNOPSES

EPISODE ONE: FRIENDS AND ENEMIES

SUNDAY, JUNE 22, 9:00PM ET/PT

In episode one of this new series, the brightest and best Musketeers of the King’s Regiment, Athos, Porthos and Aramis, are dispatched by Captain Treville to find a missing Musketeer carrying important letters on behalf of King Louis. But Cardinal Richelieu has plans to increase his political power and seeks to sabotage the good reputation of the Musketeers.

Meanwhile, D’Artagnan travels from his family farm in Gascony to Paris to petition the King but his peaceful plans are turned upside down when he is forced to find the Musketeers and seek vengeance for the brutal murder of a loved one. Will D’Artagnan bring the murderer to justice and can the Musketeers protect King and country? Or will the Cardinal triumph with the help of the beautiful and dangerous Milady?

Written by Adrian Hodges and directed by Toby Haynes.

EPISODE TWO: SLEIGHT OF HAND

SUNDAY, JUNE 29, 9:00PM ET/PT

Notorious criminal, Vadim, seeks to make life unbearable for the authorities that have imprisoned him. When he engineers a full-scale riot it falls to the Musketeers to protect those whom he seeks to destroy. Will the Musketeers discover his plan in time and stop him from endangering the monarchy? And can the inexperienced D’Artagnan prove he is worthy of becoming a Musketeer or do his loyalties lie elsewhere?

Written by Adrian Hodges and directed by Toby Haynes. Jason Flemyng guest stars as Vadim.

EPISODE THREE: COMMODITIES

SUNDAY, JULY 6, 9:00PM ET/PT

The Musketeers are dispatched to Le Havre to collect the infamous merchant trader and explorer Bonnaire and bring him back to Paris to be reprimanded for breaking France’s trade treaty. This straightforward mission soon descends into a treacherous battle as they must defeat Bonnaire’s surprising number of enemies.

Athos is shockingly forced to confront his past which threatens to engulf him. Will he overcome his demons and help the Musketeers safely return to Paris or will Bonnaire’s enemies get the better of them?

Written by Susie Conklin and directed by Saul Metzstein. Anna Skellern guest stars as Maria Bonnaire.

EPISODE FOUR: THE GOOD SOLDIER

SUNDAY, JULY 13, 9:00PM ET/PT

When Aramis’ old friend Marsac, a former Musketeer, unexpectedly returns to Paris the Musketeers are thrown into turmoil fully aware that they should report him for desertion. His appearance coincides with the royal visit of the King’s beloved sister and her husband, the Duke of Savoy, whom the Musketeers must protect.

Marsac believes he finally knows the truth behind the infamous massacre which killed his troop and wants Aramis’ help to prove it. Despite their misgivings, will the Musketeers help and can they prevent Marsac exacting his own revenge?

Written by Adrian Hodges and directed Richard Clark. JJ Feild guest stars as Marsac and Vincent Regan is The Duke of Savoy.

EPISODE FIVE: THE HOMECOMING

SUNDAY, JULY 20, 9:00PM ET/PT

Porthos wakes up from his drunken birthday celebrations with no memory of the night before; not unusual except there’s a dead body beside him… After being unjustly sentenced to death he’s abducted to the dangerous Court of Miracles, the streets of his childhood.

In order to save him the Musketeers must prove his innocence. Their investigations uncover a tangled web of divided loyalties and greed and they risk their lives to infiltrate the unruly slums of the Court of Miracles before it is too late.

Written by James Dormer and directed by Saul Metzstein. Ashley Walters guest stars as Charon, Anton Lesser is Émilie De Mauvoisin and Fiona Glascott is Flea.

EPISODE SIX: THE EXILES

SUNDAY, JULY 27, 9:00PM ET/PT

Aramis and D’Artagnan are thwarted in their task to transport a young woman and her baby from a village outside Paris to the Palace when armed men abduct her baby. They must find out who she is exactly and why anyone would go to such lengths to kidnap her son.

Meanwhile, the King’s royal hunting party is disrupted by the sudden appearance of Louis’ banished mother, Marie de Medici, seeking royal protection from an unknown assassin. The Musketeers must fight to protect both mother and baby while also loyally defending the throne.

Written by Ben Harris and directed by Andy Hay. Amy Nuttall guest stars as Agnés, David Burke is Father Duval, Tara Fitzgerald is Marie De Medici and Simon Merrells is Vincent.

EPISODE SEVEN: A REBELLIOUS WOMAN

SUNDAY, AUGUST 3, 9:00PM ET/PT

Following the tragic death of a young girl underneath the royal carriage, the Musketeers investigations into her missing friend lead them into the world of a high-born and enlightened woman, Ninon, who really gets under Athos’ skin.

The Musketeers are forced to put aside their animosity towards the Cardinal when his life is placed in danger and they must rescue this extraordinary woman. 

Written by James Payne and directed Richard Clark. Annabelle Wallis guest stars as Ninon De Larroque.

EPISODE EIGHT: THE CHALLENGE

SUNDAY, AUGUST 10, 9:00PM ET/PT

The Musketeers are tasked with bringing the fearsome Labarge, a regional Intendant under arrest for the murder of two Musketeers, to Paris. The Red Guards, resentful of the Musketeers’ handling of him, initiate a vicious fight between the two regiments.

Fed up with the disruptive rivalry between the Musketeers and the Red Guards, the King calls a contest between them to settle which one is stronger once and for all. D’Artagnan is determined to be chosen to fight so that he can prove himself worthy to be a Musketeer. But first he has to learn to control his impetuous nature and to fight with his head, not his heart.

Written by Susie Conklin and directed by Farren Blackburn. Vinnie Jones guest stars as Labarge and Zoe Tapper is Alice Clerbeaux. 

EPISODE NINE: KNIGHT TAKES QUEEN

SUNDAY, AUGUST 17, 9:00PM ET/PT

Queen Anne’s taking of the waters is cut short when her life is put in mortal danger. Meanwhile Louis dines with wealthy German banker, Count Mellendorf, who is looking for a French match for his beautiful daughter.

As the Musketeers try to spirit Anne back to Paris, they’re forced to seek refuge in a fortified convent, where Aramis comes face-to-face with his past. Under siege and fearful for their lives the Mother Superior and nuns help the Musketeers to defend the convent but what will they do once they run out of ammunition….?

Written by Peter McKenna and directed by Andy Hay. Charlotte Hope guest stars as Charlotte Mellendorf and Alice Patten is Sister Helene.

EPISODE TEN: MUSKETEERS DON’T DIE EASILY

SUNDAY, AUGUST 24, 9:00PM ET/PT

The series reaches its thrilling climax when an unexpected rift between the Musketeers threatens to blow them apart. Athos takes a woman hostage in the square and the Musketeers are amazed to discover he is threatening none other than Milady.

Athos is furious when he finds out that D’Artagnan knows her, testing their friendship to its limits. D’Artagnan is forced to do the unthinkable and seeks Milady’s help. The Cardinal, fearful the Musketeers will prove he masterminded the attempt on the Queen’s life, compels Milady to kill them by any means. Milady has no choice but to revisit her dark past and in doing so puts Constance into danger. The Musketeers must use all their wits and courage to outsmart her and save Constance. Can the Musketeers restore their team and bring Milady and the Cardinal to justice? Or will Milady finally wreak her revenge?

Written by Adrian Hodges and directed by Farren Blackburn. Sean Pertwee guest stars as Sarazin.

Photos by Larry Horrocks/Courtesy of BBC America