The Hallmark Channel is premiering a diverse adaptation of Jane Austen’s classic novel ‘Sense and Sensibility’ as part of its special event, “Loveuary.” Departing from its usual contemporary Christmas-themed programming, the network is embracing the Regency-era romance genre with a unique twist that includes a predominantly Black cast.
The first three films of the “Loveuary with Jane Austen” lineup, titled Paging Mr. Darcy, premiered on Saturday, February 3. Love & Jane will premiere on February 10 and American in Austen on February 17. The grand finale, ‘Sense and Sensibility,’ directed by Roger M. Bobb, will premiere on February 24th at 8/7c.
Deborah Ayorinde, Bethany Antonia, Akil Largie, Victor Hugo, Martina Laird, and Victoria Ekanoye star in the series.
Set against the backdrop of the early 19th century, the film unfolds the compelling tale of the Dashwood sisters, Elinor (Ayorinde) and Marianne (Antonia), as they navigate love, romance, and heartbreak after being forced to leave their opulent family estate. Notably, this adaptation boasts a diverse cast, with British actors and actresses of African descent playing four of the five principal characters.
The cast showcases the talents of several accomplished actors from British television. The film promises a refreshing take on Austen’s timeless narrative while maintaining the classic elements of love, inheritance, and societal expectations.
The decision to cast actors of color in key roles reflects a broader trend in the entertainment industry, following the success of diverse casts in productions like Lin-Manuel Miranda’s ‘Hamilton’ and Netflix’s ‘Bridgerton.’ The Hallmark Channel’s commitment to diverse storytelling is further emphasized by the international locations chosen for filming, including Ireland, Bulgaria, and London.
Executive Producer Toni Judkins, head of Hallmark Mahogany, spearheaded the project with a commitment to authenticity and inclusivity. Seeking assistance from author-consultant Vanessa Riley, known for her work in historical fiction, the team aimed to recreate the novel on screen while staying true to the period’s nuances.
Riley’s involvement on set helped infuse the production with historical accuracy, addressing the challenge of representation in 19th-century England. The adaptation incorporates subtle changes to acknowledge notable people of color from European history, adding depth to the visual storytelling.
Acknowledging the complexity of lines of caste and color during Austen’s time, the film includes depictions of historical figures like Gen. Thomas-Alexandre Dumas and references to 18th-century African American author Phillis Wheatley. These nuanced details contribute to a rich and authentic portrayal of the era.
Past adaptations, such as Ang Lee’s 1995 film and the 2008 BBC series, have shaped the cinematic legacy of “Sense and Sensibility.” With box office success, Lee’s adaptation grossed over $135 million worldwide, showcasing the enduring appeal of Austen’s work. Hallmark’s Mahogany adaptation aims to contribute to this legacy, offering a fresh take on the classic with an all-black cast.
Check out the teaser and first look images below.