The first television adaptation of Ian McEwan’s work, the BBC’s upcoming TV movie version of award-winning novel The Child In Time will also mark the first outing for Sherlock star Benedict Cumberbatch as producer with his company, SunnyMarch.
Set in present day rather than the 80s setting of the novel, The Child in Time follows children’s author Stephen Lewis (Cumberbatch) as he struggles to come to terms with and move forward from the disappearance of his daughter two years earlier. His marriage to wife Julie (Kelly Macdonald) crumbling and left alone by his friends Charles (Stephen Campbell Moore) and Thelma (Saskia Reeves), Stephen must reckon with the nature of grief, time and the hope of acceptance.
“It’s a story about salvation and hope and trying to build a future which accepts and encompasses and owns loss and the absence of that child,” Cumberbatch told us of the story. “It’s also an examination of childhood and time, and what happens to trauma with time. It’s got quite a lot going for it other than the horrific central axis of the drama.”
It’s a part that is a million miles away from a lot of stuff I’ve done, especially the more famous one from the telly – that’s an appeal for me.”
This is not the first Ian McEwan adaptation the actor has been a part of, of course, having starred in Joe Wright’s 2007 film Atonement. Even though he has been a fan of the author’s work for many years, however, Cumberbatch admitted to being unfamiliar with this particular book.
He said: “There’s a lot of other stuff going on – reams of pages in McEwan’s brilliant writing. I find that a real treat and, in this instance, I’ve been a McEwan fan. I’d read [his books] as soon as they came out, [he] was that author for me. Even though that’s the case I hadn’t read The Child In Time, and I came to it through the script. It was the fantastic experience of really falling in love with the idea of playing this role and bringing the story to life.”
Cumberbatch brought much of his own life and experiences to the role, even dressing the character in his personal wardrobe. Despite this, the actor told us that getting out of the mindset of other parts was a challenge at times.
“There were moments when I wondered whether I was doing enough,” he told Den of Geek. “The engagement with the material was there but it felt very strange. I’ve done a lot of roles where there’s a lot of other stuff going on, whether it’s a very particular attitude or mindset or skillset or cultural background.
“The transformative aspect I’ve done in a lot of my roles is very far from me, and I was bringing a lot more of myself, how I sound, how I move through the world and how I dress even, than I have before. It felt quite naked at times, but it was also great because it was a different type of thing to be doing.”
With The Child in Time acting as the first SunnyMarch TV production, Cumberbatch spoke about his ambitions for the company moving forwards including creating opportunities for marginalised talent.
He said: “If I was doing this twenty years ago it’d be very different. Hopefully I’ll still have work on either canvas (film or television) to go back to and be involved somehow even if it’s just as a producer. Which is ultimately the aim of my company as much as it is to do things I’m initially involved in, to bring attention to them and get them funded.
“[This is] one thing with me at the front of it, and there’s a lot of other things we have on our slate that fulfill that promise of diversity and giving a bolder place for women both behind and in front of the camera. And yet what I’m doing in the immediate future doesn’t reflect that because we’re trying to get it off the ground.”
The Child In Time may be the start of a new era for the star, who responded to the prospect of more Sherlock with a simple “maybe”. For now, SunnyMarch will no doubt provide a counterbalance to his Hollywood endeavorrs as Doctor Strange in the upcoming Avengers: Infinity War, and hopefully kick off a brand new branch of his career.
The Child In Time airs on Sunday the 24th of September at 9pm on BBC One.