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Masterpiece
Willa Fitzgerald as Meg, clockwise from left, Kathryn Newton as Amy, Annes Elwy as Beth, and Maya Hawke as Jo in Masterpiece's "Little Women."

"LITTLE WOMEN" — KUED, Sunday, May 13 and 20, 7 p.m.

SALT LAKE CITY — Louisa May Alcott's beloved classic "Little Women" has been translated into more than 50 languages and inspired multiple films and television shows, a Broadway musical and even an opera.

Now BBC is taking its turn at interpreting the story of the life of four sisters and their Marmee while their father is away fighting in the Civil War. Masterpiece will air the first part of the miniseries in the U.S. on Mother's Day, Sunday, May 13, then a two-hour part two on May 20.

Adapted by Heidi Thomas (creator of "Call the Midwife") and directed by Vanessa Caswill, the creative team behind the miniseries is almost entirely female, according to a news release. The cast is headed by the Academy Award-nominated actress Emily Watson as Marmee and Michael Gambon (Dumbledore in the last six Harry Potter films) as Mr. Laurence. Angela Lansbury also stars as the little women's wealthy Aunt March.

Patrick Redmond
Emily Watson as Marmee, center, Kathryn Newton as Amy, left, Maya Hawke as Jo, Willa Fitzgerald as Meg, and Annes Elwy as Beth in Masterpiece's "Little Women."

Willa Fitzgerald, who plays the oldest sister, Meg, said in an interview that Caswill worked to create a viscerally present film.

"She is very creative," Fitzgerald said. "She comes from a very visual background. It was her mission to make our version of 'Little Women' feel very tanglible — full of hair and bodies and hands and feet."

The whole cast was put up in a hotel in Ireland for the filming, she said, which helped them all bond in an intense way.

"That amount of togetherness with the rest of the cast really helped solidify a familial bond," Fitzgerald said. "It's also just a beautiful backdrop to work in Ireland. It's such an amazing place with such intense geographic beauty that it was definitely a highlight."

As she got laced up in a corset each work day, Fitzgerald was excited to be immersed in Alcott's world that she'd grown up reading about, she said. A representative from the Orchard House, where the Alcotts lived in Massachusetts, was on set during the first four weeks of filming to serve as a resource to ground them in the history behind the story.

Masterpiece
Willa Fitzgerald as Meg, left, Annes Elwy as Beth and Maya Hawke as Jo in Masterpiece's "Little Women."

What makes this adaptation most unique, Fitzgerald said, is the extended time the miniseries format allows. For example, Meg's story is often cut short in other interpretations, so Fitzgerald said she enjoyed being able to delve more deeply into Meg's character for this production.

"I think she is a very complicated character who is dealing with a lot of expectation versus reality and a desire for material goods and a lifestyle that she doesn't even actually want," she said. "I think that those are all things that are very applicable to a lot of people's lives."

Meg's motherhood was another aspect Fitzgerald was able to explore more in the miniseries.

"There's a lot of deep questions about what is it to be a mother," she said, "the idea of having a life renaissance and a personal second coming of age after having children that's explored in the book, but never fully explored in the other (screen) version(s)."

Patrick Redmond
Jonah Hauer-King as Laurie, left, Maya Hawke as Jo, Willa Fitzgerald as Meg, Kathryn Newton as Amy and Annes Elwy as Beth in Masterpiece's "Little Women."

The new miniseries is this generation's chance to tell their version of "Little Women," Fitzgerald said.

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"I think there's a lot of focus on the feminist side of the story," she said. "Louisa May Alcott was obviously a feminist before feminism was a term. She was exploring a lot of ideas that were radical at the time that she was writing the book and still are radical to some people."

Perhaps it's because Alcott was so ahead of her time that "Little Women" is a story loved by many across the globe.

"I think that's what is remarkable about the story is it's not geographically specific," Fitzgerald said. "People all over the world read it and love it."