Bryant & May: Dream Casting
For a while now I’ve felt that one day, long, long after I am such stuff as dreams are made on, they might make a Bryant & May TV series (funnily enough it’s back on the cards at the moment but don’t hold your breath), so I should have some dream-casting up my sleeve. Oh indulge me, it’s one of the miniscule amusements open to pent-up writers.
So, no question, Toby Jones as Arthur Bryant. Small and wrinkled, old before his time yet always larger and more magnificent in everything he appears in (check out ‘The Tale of Tales’ if you haven’t seen it) he would be perfect in the role.
John May is trickier. There was a suggestion of Timothy Dalton some time back, which seems a good call even if they did call him Timothy ‘Run Like A Girl’ Dalton on the Bond films, but there are other sturdy types; Hugh Bonneville springs to mind although he may now forever be associated with that Downton Abbey thing or Paddington Bear, which admittedly I loved. He has a warmth that John May needs, although he might be too avuncular.
I saw Janice Longbright as an Alison Moyet type, square-jawed and handsome, Joan Hunter Dunne in person – she was modelled on a cross between the 50s actresses Eleanor Summerfield and Liz Frazer – but I could go against type here. I’ve always admired Pippa Haywood’s comedy timing. She first came to my attention as the strung-out pill-popping Mrs Brittas, and later as the cynical hard-drinking Joanna in ‘Green Wing’
Oddly the show comes up again for my choice of Raymond Land – Mark Heap played the tightly-wound-to-the-point-of-derangement radiologist in ‘Green Wing’ and would be brilliant as the unit’s titular head.
I can only see the real Maggie Armitage as Maggie Armitage (she’s above centre, red hair, at her agent’s party) but there are plenty of batty old hoofers still around who could fill the slot. Most of them end up introducing their old films at the Cinema Museum.
The TV question has arisen again (and again) because the landscape is changing so quickly. Local networks are dying off and being replaced by global brands but one of the biggest remains Sherlock Holmes, to which I’d rather have Bryant & May compared than the BBC’s ‘Old Dogs’, an excuse it usually trots out when faced with a B&M script, saying ‘We’ve already got one of those, thanks,’ thus misunderstanding the premise of the books.
The problem is, you always end up explaining what Bryant & May is not. It’s not procedural, not fantasy or supernatural, just a tiny stretch of the imagination from reality. We need to come up with a short, pithy one-liner that explains to producers what Bryant & May are about.
The closest I’ve got to it is ‘Golden Age Detectives in a Modern World.’ Any suggestions will be treated in confidence.