November 22, 2019

BBC America announces bold new casting for Terry Pratchett’s The Watch


Sir Terry Pratchett: Ankhs for the memories (Silverlutra, via WikiCommons [CC BY-SA 3.0])

The Turtle moved again for fans of Sir Terry Pratchett’s Discworld this week, as further cast additions to BBC America’s adaptation of The Watch were rolled out.

The new eight-part series, announced back in October last year, focuses on Pratchett’s motley police force, The Ankh-Morpork City Watch, as they navigate the systemic corruption, petty crime and disgusting street food of Discworld’s one and only metropolis. The crew are headed up by craggy, street-smart Commander Sam Vimes, and ably assisted by Captain Angua (a werewolf), Captain Carrot (an unusually tall dwarf), Constable Cheery (a dwarf-sized non-binary dwarf), and Sergeant Detritus (an enormous troll made of stone, who uses a siege weapon as a side-arm). Not to mention hapless Discworld legends Sergeant Fred Colon and Corporal ‘Nobby’ Nobbs, of course…

The series will begin filming in Cape Town later this month, and is due to air in 2020. It will be the first Pratchett adaptation to envelop a whole “sequence” of novels (see also: Witches; Wizards; Death). Previous page-to-screen incarnations have tackled one Discworld book at a time, including Sky’s versions of Hogfather (2006), The Colour of Magic (2008), and Going Postal (2010)—as well as Amazon’s big-budget production of Pratchett and Neil Gaiman’s Good Omens earlier this year.

A group of leads for The Watch were introduced back in September, with Game of Thrones and Fortitude star Richard Dormer leading the way as Vimes; Marama Corlette as Angua; and Lara Rossi as Lady Sybil Ramkin, a vigilante aristocrat (and Vimes’s love interest in the series).

The next wave of announcements, reported by Deadline this week, has prompted even greater excitement—with several major roles being “gender-flipped.” The wonderful Anna Chancellor (previously of Doctor Who), will play Lord Vetinari, the apparently benign—yet supremely intelligent—mastermind at the top of Ankh-Morpork’s ruling class. Quoted in the same Deadline piece, Chancellor expressed her delight at being involved in the project:

“It’s been so exciting to join such a wonderfully creative team—from writer Simon Allen to the stunning production design and a truly talented group of actors—to help realize Terry Prachett’s brilliantly anarchic yet strangely real and moving world. With the combining characteristics of Dracula and Elvis—Lord Vetinari has sprung to life in the most alarmingly joyful way”

The series also brings in Ruth Madeley (who graced our screens in Russell T. Davies’ alt-future drama Years and Years earlier in 2019) as “Throat,” a version of Pratchett’s cult favourite Cut-My-Own-Throat Dibbler—a vendor of dubious information, and even more dubious pies. CMOT Dibbler also receives the gender-flip treatment, in a casting that feels somehow even bolder and more forward-looking than Pratchett’s masterpieces.

With such a promising cast, and team of writers that clearly care deeply about the series, we can’t wait to start pacing the cobbles.



Tom Clayton is publishing executive at Melville House UK.