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A new adaptation of Howards End is in the works, with Agent Carter star Hayley Atwell taking the lead role that won Emma Thompson her first Oscar in 1993.

Deadline reports she’ll play Margaret Schlegel, an idealistic young woman who, with her sister Helen, has strong views on social inequality, despite eventually marrying into the wealthy Wilcox family.

Okay, so that doesn’t sound like the snappiest of synopses, but cut us some slack. It’s based on the classic novel by E.M. Forster, a writer not exactly known for being pithy.

Also poised to sign on the dotted line are Ripper Street‘s Matthew Macfadyen, who’ll play Margaret’s suitor Henry Wilcox, and Tracey Ullman, who’ll play her Aunt Juley. In the 1992 Oscar-winning film, those roles were played by Anthony Hopkins and Fawlty Towers‘ Prunella Scales respectively.

While that film was every bit as sumptuous as we’d come to expect from the Merchant Ivory producer-director duo, this new adaptation will be for the small screen.

What it lacks in scale, however, is more than made up for in time: Over the course of four hour-long episodes, the TV mini-series will be able to go into the novel’s themes of social division, idealism, and class in much more depth than a feature.

So far this has got all the hallmarks of a future classic. A well-loved book, brought to life by a cast featuring some of our favorite stars. We can’t wait to see feisty Peggy Carter in genteel Edwardian society – and then there’s the prospect of Spooks and Ripper Street star Matthew stepping back into period costume, while Tracey Ullman’s recent impression of Dame Judi Dench reminded us of the need to have her on TV 24/7.

Not only that, but the name of the writer behind the miniseries suggests it’ll be nothing less than appointment TV. The book will be adapted by Kenneth Lonergan, the writer-director whose stunning film Manchester by the Sea won the BAFTA for Best Original Screenplay this week, and has been nominated in six Oscar categories.

Howards End will start filming soon in and around London. Co-produced by Starz and the BBC, it’ll eventually air in both the U.S. and the U.K.

What do you think of this casting?

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By Kat Sommers
Kat is a freelance writer for Anglophenia.