Can a TV series touch your heart and change your life? Nooo? You can only say that if  you haven't seen this one. I would have answered "no" myself before watching  it  by chance  a  few years ago. Unbelievable but true, this is what this miniseries did to thousands of viewers all over the world. If I had only suspected what a turning point   BBC NORTH AND SOUTH, would be in my life... I would have watched it earlier! Instead, I discovered  it only in the summer 2008 and it , incredibly, actually changed my life.
Exaggerating? Not a bit. I know the same happened to so many! Which other costume series had such an extraordinary response? Pride and Prejudice 1995, of course. But not many others.
Enthusiastic fans, hundreds of them, overwhelmed the BBC Drama message boards with messages about the series and,  in particular, its hero. Soon the BBC had to set up a separate message board for the discussions. The phenomenon of so many women taking to an Internet message board for the first time because of their love for this programme became the subject of an article by Anne Ashworth in The Times. She wrote: 
The BBC Drama website contains the outpourings of hundreds of thirty and fortysomething women for this year’s romantic hero. He is John Thornton, the northern millowner in Mrs Gaskell’s North & South, recently serialised on BBC One. Thornton was played smoulderingly by the previously little-known Richard Armitage as a blue-eyed, dark-haired stunner, the Darcy de nos jours. On the messageboard, character and actor merge into one object of desire: RA/JT (from http://www.richardarmitageonline.com/

As The Times wrote at the time of its broadcasting, North and South is "an intelligent, moving, thought -provoking and visually striking adaptation" of Elizabeth Gaskell 1855 novel. A passionate tale of love across the social divide with an unforgettable soundtrack by Martin Phipps. The story has been often compared to Pride and Prejudice, it has been defined "P&P with a social conscience".
Richard Armitage, who brilliantly played brooding but charming mill owner John Thornton, said in his interview for The Story of Costume Drama (ITV) : "The landscape of N&S is incredibly grey and bleak and deliberately so. And then , in the middle of it , you've got this really beautiful blossoming romance ..." In fact, the dramatic drive of the story hangs on the chemistry between the central couple: privileged  Southerner Margaret Hale, and Northern practical-minded John Thornton. So casting was crucial.

By the end of a lengthy auditioning process, no match had been made! To find the two protagonists was not easy at all for the production. But , in the end, the choice of Richard Armitage as John and Daniela Denby-Ashe as Margaret was actually perfect.
Daniela Denby-Ashe had not originally auditioned for the role of Margaret Hale but for that of Fanny Thornton, and was not sure she would be participating on the project, but the producers had been looking for the right Margaret for a long time and Denby-Ashe's "directness, energy and charm" as well as the chemistry she had with would-be co-star Richard Armitage proved decisive. Armitage himself had been the first actor to read for the role of John Thornton and even though his performance had impressed producer Kate Bartlett and casting director Jill Trevellick, they still had to see many other possible Thorntons. Three weeks after casting had begun, Trevellick decided to recapitulate the first auditions, realising that Armitage was "perfect". To recreate the Victorian era, Edinburgh was chosen as fictional town Milton. Filming also took place in Selkirk, Keighley and weaving shed at Queen Street Mill Museum in Burnley, home to 300 deafening Lancashire looms.
The story contrasts the values, customs and traditions of the rural south and booming industrial north. It also explores the relentless search for profit and the suffering of mill work. The north is characterized by a grey smoky atmosphere while Helstone in the South is full of colours and light.

It was adapted for television by brilliant Sandy Welch and directed by Brian Percival. Despite their initially low expectations, the BBC was surprised with the positive audience reception, which compelled them to release the series on DVD on 11 April 2005.
If you have seen it like me more than once, I'm sure you will be able to understand my foolish passion completely! If you haven't seen it yet, I must warn you, you've missed the best emotions you can ever experience in front of a screen.


Janet T said...

Enjoyed your post Maria. I only saw N&S for the first time earlier this year. Can't believe I had missed this. I absolutely love it and have watched it numerous times, just like the PnP miniseries. In fact, I think they are both due another visit soon!

Thanks again for the review of N&S.

Elizabeth D. Marie said...

Has it been that long already? I absolutely love this movie and the book as well. Each have unique qualities and same true characters that have endeared them to my heart. I can't decide which ending I like better, the book or the movie, because they are both wonderful!

Servetus said...

Totally changed my life although it's only been 4.75 years ... not that I am counting. But it's gone by quickly. Happy birthday N & S!

Anonymous said...

AWWW! "I understand you completely", dear MG, although the series that changed my life was actually P&P95. When I first met JT it was early 2008 and I recognized at once all the symptoms of a new addiction. Couldn't fight them off, though :-P
So here I am, celebrating the 10th anniversary of N&S with dear friends who share the same addiction, among other things.
See you later :)
xx K/V

Gratiana Lovelace said...

Lovely post! February 2010 was the month I first experience Richard Armitage as John Thornton in the BBC's North & South as a library rental. My life was changed forever as the romance inspired me to discover my inner romance writer--among other things. Cheers!

JaneGS said...

What a fantastic post. So fun to read about your response to the video and the backstory to the production. The N&S video introduced my to Elizabeth Gaskell, one of the rare times when I watched the adaptation before reading the book, and she is now one of my favorite authors.

Happy birthday, N&S--may you continue to change lives :)