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Netflix adapts Margaret Atwood’s Alias Grace into six-part TV series

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Just a few weeks ago, we learned that Elisabeth Moss, Samira Wiley, and more are set to star in a televised adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale

And now it has come to our attention that Netflix are bringing another of the feminist author’s best-loved novels to life on the small screen.

Alias Grace will be shorter than Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale, but that doesn’t mean that the six-part-miniseries will be short on talent, too.

In fact, it has already been revealed that True Blood’s Anna Paquin and 11.22.63’s Sarah Gadon will be leading the ensemble cast.

Atwood herself will even have a cameo role.

Speaking at a recent press conference, she said: “I'm going to be a disapproving lady in a church. Typecasting.” 



The original novel, unusually for Atwood, is based on a true story – that of Grace Marks (Gadon), a poor young Irishwoman who emigrated from her home country to Canada in 1840.

She soon found work as a servant in the household of Thomas Kinnear, but attracted the ire of his mistress, Nancy Montgomery (Paquin), when she became increasingly suspicious of Kinnear’s affections for Marks.

Driven mad by jealousy, Montgomery eventually fired Marks in a fit of rage – and was later found brutally murdered, alongside the body of Kinnear.

Margaret Atwood will have a cameo role in the series

Margaret Atwood will have a cameo role in the series

Marks was arrested, alongside a young stablehand named James McDermott (who may or may not have been her lover), for the sensational double murder. McDermott was hanged, while Marks was sentenced to life imprisonment.

After 30 years behind bars, Marks was eventually exonerated, although a debate still rages as to whether or not she was truly guilty of the killings, or an unwitting accessory.



Speaking about the events that unfold in her novel, Atwood told The Guardian that she attempted to address the double-standards that crime the media employs when discussing male and female criminals.

She said: “When there are crimes of violence, involving both a man and a woman, it usually goes as follows: nobody ever says the man is a nice guy, but opinion often splits about the woman.

“Either she's the villainous instigator of it all, or else she's a terrified victim and she only did it because she was frightened for her life. That's the pattern with Grace. And there's evidence supporting both sides.”

Anna Paquin will play Nancy Montgomery in Netflix's Alias Grace

Anna Paquin will play Nancy Montgomery in Netflix's Alias Grace

Much like Atwood’s book, the series will introduce a fictional young doctor named Simon Jordan, who researches the case and begins to fall in love with Marks. However his romance soon turns into obsession as he tries to reconcile his perception of the mild-mannered woman he sees with the savage killing of which she stands accused.

The miniseries – which will span across three decades - is written and produced by Sarah Polley, and directed by Mary Harron. It will be broadcast globally on Netflix.

“I first read Alias Grace when I was 17 years old and throughout the last 20 years I have read it over and over, trying to get to the bottom of it,” said Polley. “Grace Marks, as captured by Margaret Atwood, is the most complex, riveting character I have ever read.”

Alias Grace

Alias Grace

Atwood has praised Polley for the script, saying: "She's a pretty brilliant writer. I saw the first script she did which was a movie.... Then, she said it's just not long enough to get in all the levels of nuance. So that's when she made it into a six-part miniseries.”

She added: “Who would have predicted in the '50s and '60s that daytime soaps would have morphed into such an expressive and well-produced kind of thing," she added.

"We've had some riveting ones — miniseries and longer series of which the production quality has been very high, and the acting has been spectacular."

Images: Rex pictures, Waterstones

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