It’s the day after the Battle of Waterloo, thousands of dead British and French soldiers and cavalrymen are strewn across a cannon-crated Belgian landscape of gore and mutilation. And a ragged Monsieur Thenardier is picking his way through the corpses, removing rings, cleaning out wallets, pocketing anything that is valuable.
That’s the dramatic opening scene of the BBC production of ‘Les Miserables’, a true-to-book adaption of Victor Hugo’s classic work — and an introduction to rising British actor Adeel Akhtar.
Born in London to a Pakistani father and Kenyan mother, Akhtar gave up his legal studies to concentrate on acting, and spoke to Gulf News tabloid! recently on a very rainy and dark winter’s evening in central London.
“Monsieur Thenardier is a scavenger at the start of the book and of this story and elevates himself to the position of landlord,” he says. “However, he is terrible with money and responsibility so it soon all goes down the pan.”
For Akhtar, the appeal of playing in the BBC adaption of ‘Les Miserables’ was simply too good to pass up.
“When you have a good story, it doesn’t matter where it’s placed in history as it speaks to a universality of people’s emotions and needs,” he says. “The stories are about love and kindness and that’s always something that any audience is receptive to.”
And accepting the role was simply an offer he couldn’t refuse. “The part itself of Monsieur Thenardier is actually funny and quite dark at times. The bigger draw was the story as a whole.”
The 38-year-old’s television work includes ‘Utopia’, ‘Capita’, ‘River’ and ‘The Night Manager’. In 2016, he starred in the BBC’s ‘Murdered By My Father’, a dramatic role for which he became the first non-white person to win a best actor Bafta award. His big screen roles in include ‘Four Lions’, ‘Victoria & Abdul’ and ‘Swimming With Men’.
Don’t miss it!
‘Les Miserables’ premieres on January 13 at 9pm in the UAE on BBC First available on OSN.