Interview with Claire McCarthy - the Director of The Luminaries
I am a big fan of the book and thought it was such a rich, beautiful world and Eleanor has written such an incredible, textured story. So, when I found out that they were planning to make a TV series I was determined to somehow get in the mix. I had been in London doing post-production on a project and was reading The Luminaries for the second time on the tube on my way into the edit room. I read it again and kept on thinking about how visual the world was and how wonderful it would be to stage it. I was lucky enough to meet with Working Title whilst in London and they allowed me to pitch on it, and I just threw everything at it and fortunately it worked!
Tell us about that pitch and your initial ambitions for the drama?
It's such a rich world, the world of The Luminaries, and in thinking about bringing it to life I really wanted to capture the cinematic quality that's on the page. The characters are so rich, we have a world that's in this intrepid part of history where people would travel from the four corners of the globe and come to New Zealand to find their fortune and to start a whole new life. So I was thinking about what was the language of the show - what was it to look like? What was its colour palette? What was the visual language that would speak to the theology of the book in a way that could be faithful to the book, but also take it somewhere where it would be digestible within six episodes? What could we ground in the scripts and in the journeys of the characters so that we could go on this rollercoaster ride?
I was intrigued by Anna Wetherell's character and I was really excited that the first script of The Luminaries was very much about Anna's journey and vested much more in the love story between her and Emery Staines, as well as the female friendship between Anna and Lydia. I thought that was really interesting. In the book, Anna is much more of a cipher for their experiences. In our retelling, Anna is more the subject than the object; it's her experiences and we tell the story through her eyes. These are all the complexities that the book also has but we're retelling it in a different way. It was about simplifying and thinking about how to make that world feel cinematic and truthful to the book and also bringing a visual language that would draw an audience in, in an entertaining way.
Full Interview at