From Hollywood to your headphones: meet the cast of Audible’s new adaptation of 1984

<span>Andrew Scott plays O’Brien – ‘he oozes menace’.</span><span>Photograph: Chris Skillern Photography</span>
Andrew Scott plays O’Brien – ‘he oozes menace’.Photograph: Chris Skillern Photography

George Orwell’s 1984 has given the world so many indispensable concepts that you’d be forgiven for forgetting all the memorable characters who bring those ideas to life. Which is a pity because it’s the characters who give Orwell’s timeless story so much of its drama and tension – their hopefulness and despair, their perseverance and desperation, their all-too human weaknesses and self-deception.

A new dramatisation from Audible features the kind of acting talent who can burn characters into your memory. Starring Andrew Garfield, Cynthia Erivo, Andrew Scott and Tom Hardy, it’s a perfect example of Audible’s ability to assemble formidable ensemble casts. From Hollywood A-listers to rapidly rising talent, here’s a look at just some of the names who came together to make one of the defining novels of our age sound even more essential.

Andrew Garfield as Winston Smith
Think Andrew Garfield and the first thing that might come to mind is Spiderman. The Surrey-raised star first rose to fame in 2010’s The Social Network and more recently showed off his multiple talents with his Golden Globe-winning portrayal of the American composer and playwright Jonathan Larson in Tick, Tick … Boom!

As Winston Smith, the protagonist of 1984, Garfield brings his trademark nervous energy to the role, drawing out the humour in the book but also the sheer horror of Winston’s story. Garfield’s performance also captures some of the interesting contradictions Orwell gives Winston, such as his guilt, his hubris, his bile – and how these things often conflict with his idealism and his belief in the sanctity of truthfulness.

Cynthia Erivo as Julia
If you’re a fan of musicals, you won’t be a stranger to the talents of Grammy and Tony Award winning actor and singer Cynthia Erivo. Theatre credits to her name include The Color Purple and Sister Act, while on film she played the lead in Harriet, an autobiographical film about abolitionist and social activist Harriet Tubman.

The Londoner will next appear in the forthcoming big screen adaptation of Wicked alongside Ariana Grande.

In 1984, she is the strong and passionate voice of Julia, the woman who takes Winston on a journey of rebellion. Erivo captures Julia’s wisdom and sense of realism, often disarming you with her knack for seeing and stating things so clearly. Her steadying voice and presence are used to incredibly surreal effect during some of the story’s most dramatic moments – as if her words of wisdom and her pleas for sanity are invading Winston’s own thoughts.

Andrew Scott as O’Brien
Thanks to his role in the second series of Fleabag, Andrew Scott will forever be referred to as the Hot Priest, following his breakout turn as Richard Moriaty in Sherlock. On the Hollywood circuit, the Irish star is receiving accolades for his performance in All of Us Strangers. He is also renowned for his theatre work, including a much-praised Hamlet, an Olivier-winning performance in Nöel Coward’s Present Laughter, and, most recently, playing all the roles in Vanya, an adaptation of Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya.

Scott’s penchant for conveying moral ambiguity makes him perfectly cast as 1984’s mysterious and creepily seductive Party official O’Brien. While he oozes menace throughout Audible’s adaptation, Scott’s performance in 1984’s infamous torture scene is genuinely frightening. The actor really lets rip, oscillating between icily sinister and borderline unhinged.

Tom Hardy as Big Brother
Whether he’s playing a post-apocalyptic anti-hero in Mad Max: Fury Road, or larger-than-life comic book characters in Venom and The Dark Knight Rises, or the romantic lead in This Means War, Tom Hardy demands attention in whichever role he takes on. On the small screen he has played gangster Alfie Solomons in Peaky Blinders.

As the voice of Big Brother in 1984, Hardy is both commanding and soothing – he manages to bring an air of desperate bombast to Big Brother’s public pronouncements.

Romesh Ranganathan as Tom Parsons
He may be best known for his standup comedy, so there’s the (correct) presumption that Ranganathan brings a touch of humour to the role of Parsons, Winston’s colleague.

When he’s not dropping deadpan one-liners as the host of A League of Their Own and The Weakest Link, the comedian also finds the time to perform in star-studded musicals. In 2021, the father-of-three played Romesh the Mouse in an all-singing, all-dancing version of Cinderella alongside Camila Cabero, Minnie Driver and Pierce Brosnan.

As Parsons, he delivers some of the novel’s most laugh-out-loud humour, but then breathtakingly switches to convey the desperation of a man who realises the horror of the dystopia that he’s bought into.

Natasia Demetriou as Mrs Parsons
We don’t get to hear from Mrs Parsons very often but Natasha Demetriou’s casting as the hapless mother, terrorised by her own children, is pitch perfect.

Demetriou will be recognised from her role as a vampire on FX comedy horror mockumentary What We Do in the Shadows, she also starred in Channel 4’s Stath Lets Flats. Most recently, the comedian, actor and screenwriter brought her special brand of humour to the BBC in the sketch show Ellie & Natasia.

Orwell’s novel relays the terror of a world where parents grow afraid of their own children, which Demetriou’s take on Mrs Parsons captures to chilling effect.

Katie Leung as Ling
Harry Potter fans will recognise Leung as Cho Chang, who grants the boy wizard his first kiss in the film series. But the Scottish born star also played martial arts superstar Jackie Chan’s daughter in The Foreigner.

On TV, her real-life pregnancy was worked into the second series of crime drama Annika, which premiered last year.

In 1984, she plays Ling, a woman who works in the ministry alongside Winston, and gets on with her job despite her own husband being vaporised.

Chukwudi Iwuji as Charrington
Nigerian-British actor Chukwudi Iwuji recently made his mark as a Marvel villain in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 3, playing the ultimate mad scientist The High Evolutionary.

The talented star is also an associate artist of the Royal Shakespeare Company and has two Olivier Awards to his name after taking on the titular role of Henry VI In 2009.

He brings a suitably ominous touch of suspense and intrigue to the voice of shopkeeper Charrington in this new adaptation of 1984.

Francesca Mills as Syme
If you’re a fan of Harlots, you’ll recognise Mills from her role as a sex worker in the TV series starring Samantha Morton and Lesley Manville.

She also played the assassin Meldof in Netflix miniseries The Witcher: Blood Origin, not to mention Earthy Mangold in the BBC’s 2020 revamp of the children’s classic Worzel Gummidge.

Mills is annoyingly brilliant as Syme, an overenthusiastic employee at the Ministry of Truth. Her performance really captures the character’s intriguing blend of blind zealousness and keen perceptiveness.

Behind the desk …
This powerful new dramatisation of 1984 is directed by Bafta-winner Destiny Ekaragha (Ted Lasso, The End of the F***ing World) and written by playwright Joe White (Blackout Songs, The Little Big Things). The production also features a score composed by Matthew Bellamy, the lead singer and guitarist with Muse, and composer Ilan Eshkeri, performed and recorded by a 60-piece orchestra at Abbey Road Studios.

Audible’s new dramatisation of George Orwell’s classic tale stars Andrew Garfield, Cynthia Erivo, Andrew Scott and Tom Hardy, with an original score by Matthew Bellamy and Ilan Eshkeri. Listen now. Subscription required. See for terms.

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