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June 26, 2014

BBC America's 'The Musketeers': All for one and one for all

Actors did their homework by reading the novel

For every generation, there is a new version of “The Three Musketeers.” The French novel written by Alexandre Dumas in 1844 had all the ingredients of adventure and romance to make it a publishing hit, followed by film classics.

Now comes a TV series, “The Musketeers” on BBC America, with yet another swashbuckling, sword fighting and — in episode one — very muddy take on it.

This is a more modern interpretation than most. “What I didn’t want to do is adapt the novel too faithfully,” says Adrian Hodges, the series’ writer, “because I just felt that that had been done a lot.”

The original novel centered on a spirited young man, D’Artagnan, who comes to Paris to join the King’s Musketeers during the reign of Louis XIII (1601-1643). On the way, he meets three men, ending up challenging them to duels. It turns out they are Musketeers — Athos, a brooding aristocrat with a messy past, Porthos, a drunken brawler, and Aramis, a lady’s man. After the misunderstandings are cleared up, D’Artangan joins them as a Musketeer. Their persistent enemy is the monarch’s power adviser, Cardinal Richelieu, and his henchwoman, Milady.

In the BBC’s new version, the changes start from the first episode. Here D’Artagnan (Luke Pasqualino) and his father fall afoul of a bandit group whose leader claims to be “Athos of the King’s Musketeers.” His father killed, D’Artagnan heads for Paris for justice and revenge. One thing is the same: Their nemesis is still Cardinal Richelieu (Peter Capaldi, who has moved on to be the new “Doctor Who”).

With the exception of Pasqualino, all of the “Musketeers” actors did their homework by reading the novel.

Tom Burke, who plays Athos, says he’s read it three times, and “I still dip into it.”

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