Charlie Heaton to play The Elephant Man in new TV drama

Charlie Heaton
Charlie Heaton

Bridlington-born actor Charlie Heaton is to play the lead role in BBC's new drama The Elephant Man.

The two-part series will be filmed in Wales later this year and will make it on to our screens next year.

The 24-year-old, who left East Yorkshire for London when he was a teenager, and his best known for his role on Stranger Things, said: “I’m extremely excited and honoured to be given the opportunity to take on the portrayal of Joseph Merrick in the BBC’s adaption of The Elephant Man.

"This is such a special role and a challenge for any actor. Joseph has such an incredible story and I can’t wait to go on this journey and bring him to life.”

The script has been written by Neil McKay and tells the tale of the extraordinary life of Joseph Merrick from his working-class beginnings in Leicestershire, through the work-houses, music halls and freak shows, to his time at the London Hospital and his vital friendship with Dr Frederick Treves.

Starting with his birth and ending with his death, McKay’s adaptation covers the true events of Merrick’s personal odyssey, his extreme courage, determination and human dignity despite challenges arising from his disability. It explores the mysteries that surround Merrick and the man behind the myth.

Piers Wenger, controller of BBC Drama added, “Neil’s scripts, chronicling Joseph’s life in its entirety, will shed new light on this story bringing greater depth and humanity to it than ever before. Charlie Heaton promises to be extraordinary in the lead role and we are excited to be telling this powerful, resonant story on BBC One.”

Elaine Pyke, executive producer for New Pictures, said, “It wasn’t until we started the research that we realised there was such a rich story to tell about this wonderful man. Joseph’s determination to be his own man, to earn a living, to find a sense of freedom and to express himself is inspiring to all. Neil McKay’s beautiful script captures this extraordinary story and we are thrilled that Charlie Heaton is going to play Joseph."

In 1980, David Lynch directed John Hurt in the lead role in a motion picture picture based on Merrick’s life for which it won BAFTAs for Best Film and Best Actor. David Bowie, Mark Hamill, and Bradley Cooper have also taken on the role on stage and screen.