The BBC has acquired “Miss Austen,” a star-studded production of Gill Hornby’s bestselling and much-loved novel, produced by Bonnie Productions for MASTERPIECE in the US and distributed by Federation Studios.

The adaptation, penned by BAFTA-winning writer Andrea Gibb (Elizabeth is Missing, Mayflies), will feature a cast including Keeley Hawes (It’s A Sin, Bodyguard, Line of Duty), Rose Leslie (Game of Thrones, Vigil), Patsy Ferran (Living, Hot Milk), Jessica Hynes (Life After Life, Years and Years), Mirren Mack (The Witcher: Blood Origin, The Nest), Phyllis Logan (Downton Abbey, Shetland), Kevin McNally (The Crown, Ten Percent), Max Irons (Condor, The Wife), Alfred Enoch (How to Get Away with Murder, Foundation), Calam Lynch (Bridgerton, Archie), and Liv Hill (The Serpent Queen, Elizabeth Is Missing).

The four-part drama, directed by BAFTA-winning filmmaker Aisling Walsh (Maudie, Elizabeth is Missing), commenced filming last month in the UK and is produced by Stella Merz (Gentleman Jack, Renegade Nell).

“Miss Austen” unravels a literary mystery—Cassandra Austen’s notorious act of burning her famous sister Jane’s letters—and reimagines it as a captivating, witty, and heart-breaking tale of sisterly love. The narrative introduces Cassandra as a character as captivating as any Austen heroine.

The drama unfolds in 1830, some time after Jane’s demise. Cassandra (Keeley Hawes) rushes to visit her young friend Isabella (Rose Leslie), who is on the verge of losing her home following her father’s death. While ostensibly there to assist her friend, Cassandra’s true motive is to locate a stash of private letters that, if in the wrong hands, could tarnish Jane’s reputation. Cassandra, upon discovering them, is overwhelmed and transported back to her youth. Through flashbacks, we encounter Young Cassy and Jane (Patsy Ferran) as they navigate infatuations, family feuds, and dashed hopes that shaped their lives and laid the foundations for Jane’s unforgettable stories. Cassandra’s reassessment of her past eventually leads her to realize her blindness to the true cause of Isabella’s heartache and distress. In finding a way to guide Isabella towards true happiness, Cassandra finally comprehends and celebrates the sacrifices she made for her brilliant sister, Jane.

Sue Deeks, Head of BBC Programme Acquisition, says: “Miss Austen is the perfect blend of intriguing mystery, vivid and engaging characters and beguiling period charm – BBC viewers certainly have a treat in store.”

Christine Langan, executive producer, says: “To have this hugely entertaining female-driven story told by such a stellar cast, led by Keeley Hawes, as Bonnie Productions’ first drama is genuinely a dream come true. Gill Hornby has found an ingenious way into the Austen world, creating female characters modern audiences can empathise with and delight in. I’m so honoured to be bringing this wonderful novel to the screen in collaboration with the deeply talented trio of writer, Andrea Gibb, director, Aisling Walsh and producer, Stella Merz.”

Susanne Simpson, MASTERPIECE executive producer, says: “Miss Austen is a beautifully told story about the loves and losses of the Austen sisters. I’m thrilled that this heartfelt, romantic, and funny adaptation is in the hands of a remarkable ensemble cast led by the incredible Keeley Hawes.”

Miss Austen (4×50) is a co-production of Bonnie Productions and MASTERPIECE, in association with the BBC and Federation Stories.

The executive producers are Christine Langan for Bonnie Productions, Susanne Simpson for MASTERPIECE and Polly Williams for Federation Stories. Keeley Hawes, Andrea Gibb and Aisling Walsh are also executive producers.