If you’ve already had enough of cheesy Christmas films and festive TV specials then BBC One might have just the thing to keep you entertained this week.
New four-part thriller The Girl Before is set to air across four consecutive nights in the lead-up to the big day, and it is certainly an antidote to the usual Christmas schmaltz.
If that sounds like something up your street and you want to know more, here’s what we can tell you about it...
What is The Girl Before about?
According to the BBC, The Girl Before “tells the story of Jane, who gets the chance to move into a beautiful, ultra-minimalist house designed by an enigmatic architect.
“There’s just one catch: the occupants must abide by his list of exacting rules. Jane starts to feel the house changing her in unexpected ways, but when she makes the shocking discovery about her predecessor Emma (Jessica Plummer), she’s forced to confront unnerving similarities. As the two women’s timelines interweave, Jane begins to question if her fate will be the same as the girl before...”
Who is in The Girl Before cast?
Gugu Mbatha-Raw (The Morning Show, Loki, Black Mirror) plays Jane Cavendish, a financial PR exec who takes solace in One Folgate Street.
Having been shell-shocked by a recent trauma, the minimalist house is a retreat from Jane’s strife, and the discipline required to live there chimes with her own work ethic and high standards. However, the mystery of what happened to the girl who lived there before soon begins to consume her.
“She’s incredibly raw on the inside,” Gugu says. “One Folgate Street really explores the opportunity for Jane to have a fresh start, but how all those things are still tormenting her in the house.”
Jessica Plummer (EastEnders, I’m A Celebrity) plays Emma Matthews, the woman who previously lived at One Folgate Street.
Emma moves into the house at a point in her life where she is unsatisfied with her career and partner, and is still traumatised by two separate acts of violence in her past, which she has always felt too ashamed to share.
Jessica says: “Emma uses distractions as a coping mechanism. She wants to put to bed things that aren’t working anymore and reinvent herself all over again.”
However, while she hopes to find security and safety, her life soon spirals out of control.
David Oyelowo (Selma, Nightingale, Spooks) plays Edward Monkford, the successful but enigmatic architect of One Folgate Street. Edward is described as being such a perfectionist that the slightest flaw in his surroundings causes him almost physical pain, while his grief has manifested itself into the extreme minimalism present in his architecture.
“He also has this fascinating condition called repetition compulsion,” David explains.
“In speaking to some therapists for research, I found that we all have a certain degree of this going through life and either making the same mistakes or making some of the same choices – basically habitually finding ourselves in situations that may or may not be healthy for us... It was intriguing to explore that, but then also the concept of this guy who is trying to control his life, manipulate his life, be fully in the driving seat of his life to a very unhealthy degree.”
Viewers will be left wondering if Edward is dangerous, or merely damaged, and whether he is a victim, or a killer...
Ben Hardy (Bohemian Rhapsody, X-Men: Apocalypse, EastEnders) plays Simon Wakefield, Emma’s partner. He suspects Emma is out of his league and will do anything to make her feel he’s “the one” for her.
“He’s very much a beta to Edward’s alpha male,” Ben says. “The character is very submissive... he beats himself up for being so submissive because he wants to be the alpha.”
What book is The Girl Before based on?
The Girl Before has been adapted for TV from the the 2016 novel of the same name by author JP Delaney.
After the book’s release, it became an instant New York Times and Sunday Times bestseller and sold over a million copies in 40 countries.
The writer has also published titles including The Perfect Wife, Believe Me and Playing Nice.
JP Delaney is a pseudonym with the same author having also published the Carnivia trilogy under the name Jonathan Holt, and titles including The Food Of Love, The Wedding Officer and Undressing under the name Anthony Capella.
How does the TV adaptation differ to the book?
According to JP Delaney, who also worked on the script for the TV series, it is “simpler” plot-wise than the book as some of the “twists and turns” had to be cut out. That said, he assures readers that the show has ended up being “very similar as an overall plot”.
However, he notes that the main difference is that the book “is very much within its genre” as a thriller, so is “all about the plot and pace”, whereas the TV series is “more nuanced and character-driven than the book”.
“In TV, you have a chance to unpack people’s characters a bit more... That’s been one of the most fun things about doing it,” he adds.
When is The Girl Before on?
The Girl Before airs from Sunday 19 to Wednesday 22 December at 9pm on BBC One, with episodes available to stream on iPlayer.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.