untung99.biz: Tom Jones Cast Previews Younger More Innocent Spin on Classic RomCom

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Dripping jewels and attitude, the fashionable aristocrat sweeps into a mid-18th-century London drawing room, eyeing a handsome young man like a cat stalking a tasty mouse. The great seducer is Lady Bellaston (wittily played by Ted Lasso Emmy winner Hannah Waddingham). Her new target: the naive Tom Jones (an appealing Solly McLeod, Outlander).

“She is intoxicated on the spot,” Waddingham says. “She thinks, ‘I shall have him,’ as she usually does. But then she is utterly derailed by him. He is very much a case apart for her.”

The penniless Jones has little choice but to accept the great lady’s tempting patronage: Squire Allworthy (James Fleet), who had generously taken him in as a baby of uncertain parentage, has recently kicked him out and disowned him. Already out of favor for bedding the gamekeeper’s daughter, Tom sealed his fate by stubbornly pursuing Sophia Western (Sophie Wilde), the girl next door who’s expected to marry Allworthy’s legitimate heir, his unpleasant nephew William Blifil (James Wilbraham). And if Blifil won’t fit the bill, Lady B, who happens to be Sophia’s aunt, will find her niece another husband to keep her away from Tom “by turning her into a traditional London woman — in a quite negative way,” Wilde previews.

(Credit: PBS Masterpiece/© Steffan Hill 2021)

Masterpiece’s Tom Jones is a warm-hearted adaptation of Henry Fielding’s 1749 comic novel about the picaresque adventures of the title character, who desires only two things: to be considered a gentleman and to marry Sophia. Both orphans — her father was landed gentry; her mother, a Black Jamaican woman — “they understand each other in a way no one else can,” McLeod says. Unfortunately, as Sophia admits, “Tom and I can never be together. I am rich and he is poor. So Sophie,” she adds, “has to uphold a lot of the expectations for wealthy women.”

Though the four-episode PBS series shares DNA with the 1963 multi-Oscar-winning movie starring Albert Finney, it hews closer to the novel. “Our version of Tom is younger and more innocent than Finney’s, who was more of a rascal,” explains McLeod. “He is almost too nice; his kindness puts him in trouble in the first place.” Or as Wilde puts it, “Tom is a little lost puppy. He has the best intentions, he’s just easily led astray.” Especially with women, who keep throwing themselves at him! He believes as a gentleman it would be rude to reject them — and that he must court them.

Both McLeod and Wilde describe Tom Jones as a coming-of-age story: “There’s a kind of naivete to Tom and Sophie at the start,” Wilde notes. “These two young people each go on their own journey of self-discovery and discovering how they relate to the world” and each other. “There are so many twists and turns that keep them apart,” she previews. “But that’s part of the charm of their stories . You’re constantly rooting for them to hopefully get together.”

“We’ll watch them make mistakes and figure it out,” McLeod says, “especially Tom.” And like any rom-com, there are missed opportunities between the would-be lovers, as Tom makes his way to London and Sophia and her maid, Honour (Pearl Mackie, Doctor Who), chase after him. “Sophia is a fighter,” Wilde says. “If she can’t marry for love, she’d rather not marry at all! She strives for her kind of autonomy despite the social mores of the time.”

As does the manipulative Lady B., who expresses her power by taking young lovers. While there are several bawdy intimate scenes, “it’s not just about the corset ripping and the bump and grind,” Waddingham makes clear. “[Tom and Lady B.] actually really get on well. I said to Solly, ‘I hope you don’t mind that I hope people come away from the series in Lady’s B.’s camp.’ He was like, ‘Oh, trust me, they will think that!’”

Tom Jones, Series Premiere, Sunday, April 30, 9/8c, PBS (check local listings at pbs.org)

This is an excerpt from TV Guide Magazine’s The Goldbergs issue. For more inside scoop on what’s coming to TV and streaming in the weeks ahead, pick up the issue, on newsstands Thursday, April 20.