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‘Les Miserables’ becomes a television ‘Masterpiece’ on PBS

The latest version of “Les Miserables” has something it didn’t while it was being filmed: an Oscar-winning star.

Olivia Colman earned an Academy Award as best actress for “The Favourite” after completing PBS’ “Masterpiece” retelling of Victor Hugo’s classic about desperate thief Jean Valjean (Dominic West) and his dogged nemesis, Inspector Javert (David Oyelowo). Colman and Adeel Akhtar portray Madame and Monsieur Thenardier in the BBC coproduction, also starring Lily Collins as Fantine and beginning its six-part run on WTTW at 8 p.m. Sunday, April 14.

For its newest incarnation, “Les Miserables” was adapted by two-time Emmy winner Andrew Davies. He admits he never read the Hugo novel before getting the assignment, adding that after he did, “I thought it was a terrific story that resonated so much with the world we live in today.”

A racial element exists between the central enemies in the new “Les Miserables,” and Oyelowo (also one of the drama’s executive producers, as is West) notes, “Contrary to some popular belief, not every black man living in Europe in the early 1800s was some kind of slave or subservient in some way. Napoleon had black generals in his army. I am always looking for ways to shake things up for myself. I have had the opportunity to play a number of virtuous, good men in my career, and I was kind of fascinated by this character who is so obsessed in his pursuit of another human being.”

As for playing the pursued, West reflects, “Victor Hugo said this story will have meaning so long as there is poverty. He probably didn’t think that 150 years later, there would be so much … but the gap between rich

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