It’s Official: BBC One Orders ‘The Whale’ Starring Jonas Armstrong

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Last month, TVWise broke the news that BBC One had commissioned a 90 minute factual drama titled The Whale which tells the story of the sinking of the whaleship Essex, which sunk in 1820 and was later immortalised in the book “The Loss of the Ship Essex, Sunk By A Whale”, which would in turn be used as the inspiration for the novel Moby Dick. As we previously reported, the 90 minute film is a co-production with the Discovery channel and was written by Terry Cafolla. BBC One has also confirmed our earlier scoop that the film will star Jonas Armstrong (Hit & Miss), Charles Furness, John Boyega (Law & Order: UK), Jassa Ahluwalia (Some Girls), Adam Rayner (Hunted) and also announced that other cast members include Paul Kaye (Game of Thrones), David Gyasi (War Horse) and Ferdinand Kingsley. Production on the film is set to commenece this week in Malta. BBC One’s press release follows below…..

Jonas Armstrong stars in BBC ONE’s The Whale, a dramatisation of the real events which inspired Moby Dick

Jonas Armstrong (Robin Hood; The Street) is to star in The Whale (w/t), a 1×90 film for BBC One and Discovery, written by Terry Cafolla (Holy Cross, Messiah), which will tell one of history’s greatest stories of survival at sea.

Filming begins in Malta this week and the drama will follow the ill-fated voyage of The Essex through the eyes of the cabin boy Thomas Nickerson who, at 14, was the youngest member of the crew and one of only eight survivors of the shipwreck.

Before he died in 1883, aged 78, Nickerson wrote a detailed account of his experiences which will form the basis of The Whale’s chronology, geography, characters, and main events; these are the same events that inspired Herman Melville to write Moby Dick.

Martin Davidson, Commissioner BBC History says: “Throughout the narrative of this fascinating story some universal themes that everyone can relate to will be explored such as – What is Man’s place on Earth?  How does humanity relate to the planet and its creatures? And what lengths will Man go to in order to survive? It is a thrilling tale.”

Jonas Armstrong leads the cast as First Mate Owen Chase with Adam Rayner (The Hunted) as Captain Pollard, Paul Kaye (Game of Thrones; Stella ) as Joy; David Gyasi (Cloud Atlas; War Horse) as Peterson and  Joe Armstrong (The
) as Lawrence. Also starring Jassa AhluwalisaJohn Boyega and Ferdinand Kingsley and introducing Charles Furness as the young Tom Nickerson.

Made by BBC Factual productions, the action-packed narrative follows Nickerson as, against all odds, he comes through the worst that nature throws at him, growing up fast in the process.  He faces the destructive force of sea-storms, the power of whales, the brutal desolation of the sun and sea after the shipwreck, and finally the grim realities of dark deeds as his only means of survival.

Terry Cafolla, Writer says: “At the emotional heart of the drama is orphan Nickerson’s coming-of-age story where he meets three powerful male role models in the captain, the first mate, and a steward.  As the narrative develops his views on what makes a man switches dramatically as he sees how these role models respond under some of life’s most extreme pressures.”

Woven within the story is a vivid depiction of the 19th century whaling industry, its importance to the world in an age before petroleum, the reality of its economics and operation, and the life and society of the sperm whale itself, one of the ocean’s greatest creatures.

The Whale is executive produced by Eamon Hardy, award winning Factual Executive, whose credits include Who Bombed Omagh (RTS winner) and Monkeys Rats and Me (Grierson Winner) and Ruth Caleb, Drama Executive and EON Lifetime Achievement Award Women in Film winner, whose credits include A Short Stay in Switzerland (Broadcast award and BAFTA nominee)
and Bullet Boy.

The producers are Mike Dormer whose credits include Clocking Off (BAFTA Winner) and his executive produced credits include Pompeii – The Last Day (BAFTA Winner) along with John Chapman whose credits include The Lost Prince (BAFTA winner) and The Street (BAFTA winner). Writer Terry Cafolla’s credits include BAFTA-nominated Holy Cross and Messiah.