9 p.m. Sunday, BBC America
For every generation, there is a new version of “The Three Musketeers.” The French novel written by Alexandre Dumas in 1844 had all the ingredients of adventure and romance to make it a publishing hit, followed by film classics.
Now comes a TV series, “The Musketeers” on BBC America, with yet another swashbuckling, swordfighting and – in episode one – very muddy take on it.
This is a more modern interpretation than most. “What I didn’t want to do is adapt the novel too faithfully,” says Adrian Hodges, the series’ writer, “because I just felt that that had been done a lot.”
“The Musketeers” premieres Sunday on BBC America, then will be available on iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, Microsoft Xbox Video, Sony PSN and Vudu.
The novel centered on a spirited young man, D’Artagnan, who comes to Paris to join the King’s Musketeers during the reign of Louis XIII (1601-1643). On the way, he meets three men, Musketeers, ending up challenging them to duels: Athos, a brooding aristocrat with a messy past; Porthos, a drunken brawler; and Aramis, a lady’s man. After the misunderstandings are cleared up, D’Artangan joins them. Their persistent enemy is the monarch’s adviser, Cardinal Richelieu, and his henchwoman, Milady.
In the BBC’s version, D’Artagnan (Luke Pasqualino) and his father fall afoul of a bandit group whose leader claims to be Athos of the King’s Musketeers. His father killed, D’Artagnan heads for Paris for justice and revenge. One thing is the same: Their nemesis is still Cardinal Richelieu (Peter Capaldi, who has moved on to be the new “Doctor Who”).
With the exception of Pasqualino, all of the “Musketeers” actors did their homework by reading the novel. Tom Burke, who plays Athos, says he’s read it three times, and “I still dip into it.”
Burke says while Athos is the best swordfighter in the regiment, “There’s something slightly ridiculous about dueling etiquette because it’s about two people hurting each other.”
Howard Charles has based his interpretation of Porthos on Dumas’ half-African and half-French father, who was one of Napoleon’s generals. Charles, who is Jamaican-Briton, was “was keenly aware that this was going to be a Porthos unlike any other, based on the fact that, one, I’m mixed-race, and two, we weren’t going to create a fat, drunk gambler.”
“I often describe Porthos as a human hurricane, and when I say human hurricane I mean on the inside of that hurricane, the eye of the storm,” says Charles, “But when you cross the threshold of that eye, or you cross him, or the people that he loves, then you are in a tempest of discomfort.”
Santiago Cabrera, who plays the womanizing Aramis, says the show has “a sense of fun and adventure of high stakes, also you know, brotherhood … but reinvented in a new way, unique and different from any other version.”
He’s enjoying playing a character “with a sense of humor as well as being a fighter, warrior and all that. I love that sort of tongue-in-cheek sense of humor of it as well so it was different for me.”
Everyone enjoys the filming in the Czech Republic where, says Hodges, they’ve built a mini-studio where “we shoot all our Paris locations and the Musketeer garrison.”