Dodger: Christopher Eccleston, Billy Jenkins to star in BBC family drama
James R | On 08, May 2021
Christopher Eccleston (The A Word, The Leftovers) is stepping into the shoes of Fagin for new BBC family drama Dodger.
The 10-part adventure is a funny, optimistic, fast-paced comedy drama full of jeopardy. Set before the events of Charles Dickens’ iconic novel, Oliver Twist, the show promises some familiar characters from the book amid a whole gallery of colourful, new ones. Each episode is a standalone adventure brought together at the end of the season with some dramatic reveals and surprises.
Produced by NBCUniversal International Studios, Dodger follows the exploits of the infamous pickpocket, The Artful Dodger, and Fagin’s gang as they find ingenious ways to survive the grim and exploitative conditions of early Victorian London in the 1830s.
The group of young misfits is led by Dodger and his pickpocketing partner-in-crime, Charley Bates, a girl from the countryside with a mysterious past. Charley is played by newcomer Aabay Ali. They are joined by Polly (Ellie-May Sheridan), Tang (Mila Lieu) and Dodger’s adversary in the gang, Tom (Connor Curren). Together the orphans duck and dive their way through the criminal underworld, trying to make a better life for themselves, whilst satisfying Fagin’s pickpocketing demands and avoiding the hangman’s noose.
David Threlfall (Shameless, Housewife, 49) will co-star as Chief of Police, Sir Charles Rowan, while playing Dodger is Billy Jenkins (The Crown) with Saira Choudhry (Life, No Offence) as Nancy. The cast also includes Sam C Wilson (Hanna) as Bill Sikes, Tanya Reynolds (Sex Education) as Queen Victoria, Lucy Montgomery (Disenchantment) as Fagin’s landlady, Minnie Bilge, and Frances Barber (Medici) as theatrical dame, Eliza Vestris. Javone Prince (Horrible Histories) plays inept copper PC Blathers and Rhys Thomas (The Fast Show, Brian Pern) takes an on-screen role as his partner PC Duff.
The series is written by Rhys Thomas and Lucy Montgomery with Charlie Higson guest writing an episode. Rhys Thomas also directs alongside Hildegard Ryan.
Rhys Thomas says: “I have always loved Oliver Twist but wasn’t so keen on Oliver himself. I preferred the company of Dodger, Fagin and the gang. I thought it would be fun to create a family show with Dodger at its heart and see how he came to be a master criminal in Victorian London. Working with the very best material as a springboard, it’s a total delight to expand Dickens’ rich world of characters and create a few of my own. To top it all, we have an incredible cast who are starring in the show. I can’t wait for families all over the world to see it!”
Christopher Eccleston adds: “Fagin is an iconic role, I’m a very fortunate actor. Rhys Thomas and Lucy Montgomery have taken Charles Dickens’ extraordinary characters and imagined a whole new world and lives for them. I’m very, very excited.”
Filming is underway in Manchester and other locations around the north west. Dodger will air next year on CBBC and BBC iPlayer.