The BBC has changed the “bleak” ending of J K Rowling’s The Casual Vacancy for its TV adaptation, due to be screened this month.
Screenwriter Sarah Phelps told the Telegraph that she had had to come up with a redemptive ending for the story, set in the fictional village of Pagford.
Phelps, who previously wrote screenplays for "EastEnders", said: “What works in a novel doesn’t always work on screen. Nobody wants a finger wagged in their face, and I learnt on EastEnders that if you just go ‘grim, grim, grim’, viewers will simply disengage.
“If you’ve invested three hours of your leisure time to watch a show and get involved, there’s got to be a reward. You’ve got to think that it was worth it and that the characters aren’t just a pack of s---s; they’ve got to be a little bit funny, a little bit understandable.”
The Casual Vacancy was published in 2012 by Little, Brown and portrays the tensions that bubble underneath the surface of a seemingly perfect village in the southwest of England. After the death of one of the characters, parish councilor Barry Fairbrother, issues such as poverty, drug addiction and domestic abuse all rise to the surface.
The book sold more then 750,000 copies in the UK through Nielsen BookScan and the TV adaptation, starring Michael Gambon, Keeley Hawes and Rory Kinnear, was announced in June last year.
J K Rowling reportedly gave her full support to the TV show. Phelps said: ““I met up with Jo in Edinburgh to talk about the book, writer to writer… I told her what I thought the book was about, which characters really leapt out at me, and how I might shape the series and she just said, ‘Great. That’s your job.’"
The first episode will be broadcast on BBC1 on 15th February.