“A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder” is based on Holly Jackson’s bestselling book-series about 17-year-old Pip, who finds herself drawn into a murder investigation when she begins to suspect the police have got the wrong man.
Moonage Pictures are now adapting the book alongside the BBC (who own a minority stake in Moonage) and German co-producers ZDF, with “Wednesday” star Emma Myers cast as Pip.
With the project a Mipcom priority for BBC Studios, who are repping international distribution rights, exec producers Matthew Read and Frith Tiplady sat down with Variety to discuss why “A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder” has the potential to rival the Queen of Crime herself, Agatha Christie.
Why did you decide to adapt the book?
Read: Previously, I’d worked at ITV on many Agatha Christie adaptations and when I read the manuscript for Holly Jackson’s novel, which was about to be published, I saw in the plotting a mind that was on a par with Christie. I thought that the twists and turns were so brilliantly constructed, that it had everything you could possibly want from a compelling piece of must-watch television. So we pursued it aggressively.
Was there a bidding war?
Read: We just really, really wanted it and so we met with Holly Jackson. She’s been involved throughout development and production, we’ve worked very closely with her. We’re very aware that the book has got a huge and loyal fan base, but we’re also keen to broaden the appeal and so we’ve worked together to realize the show.
How would you define the genre?
Read: It is a compulsive teen crime thriller. I think we’re certainly looking to extend the YA proposition to a broader audience.
Tiplady: I think a lot of particularly female readers have read it. So I think as a book it’s outreached [the YA market]. And I think when you read the book, Pip, who is the lead character, is like a Miss Marple. You don’t watch Miss Marple because you like hanging out with old ladies, it’s because she’s a brilliant mind and a really great character and we hope that Pip will have the same appeal. Tonally it’s like “Broadchurch” or “Happy Valley” or “Mayor of Easttown” rather than “Sex Education and “Heartbreaker.”
Emma Myers from “Wednesday” plays Pip. Does the show have that slightly darker “Wednesday” vibe?
Tiplady: For us, it was actually about getting talent that are amazing and the fact she happened to be in ‘Wednesday’ was not why we went there.
Read: It was never our plan to hire an actress from across the pond. The hunt for Pip was a huge endeavour. It was like looking for Scarlett O’Hara in “Gone with the Wind.” We met lots and lots of actors and we were incredibly surprised an actress from America turned out to be perfect for Pip. But that was not our intention at all, she just did an incredible reading for us.
“A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder” is a series of novels – are plans underway to adapt the rest?
Read: Season One covers the first novel and future seasons would look at the subsequent novels.
Tiplady: We, the BBC and ZDF hope that it will be a returning series. But we also want to stress the season has a real end — I think audiences is getting a bit frustrated with not having a resolution.
Read: You find out whodunnit but Pip’s journey continues in the subsequent novels.
The series is set in the U.K. — do you think it has international appeal?
Read: I think it has a very particularly British sensibility about it and we were very keen to make the British version of it [Jackson has also written a U.S. adaptation of the books], but I think it does have an international appeal because the book has sold in great numbers in America.
Tiplady: The crime driver is one that is really familiar and doesn’t often deliver to this audience. It’s an English town that looks quaint and sweet and actually there is an undercurrent, so I think it taps in a little to what non-U.K. audience think the U.K. is, and then you’ve got these really fascinating characters behind it. So I hope that it really will travel.
Moonage had a breakout hit with the adaptation of Nancy Mitford’s “The Pursuit of Love.” This is very different. Do you have a set idea of the kind of projects the company produces or are you just open to great material?
Read: “The Pursuit of Love” and “A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder” are both written by incredibly singular British female novelists and I think there are connections between the projects we work on.
Tiplady: I think we’re open always to great material, we have a real mix in the team. So it’s about finding something that people are passionate about. I think we always want different worlds and great characters and great stories.
This interview has been edited and condensed for space and clarity.