Maya Hawke has shared her hopes that men will see themselves in female roles when they sit down to watch Little Women this Christmas.
The teenager, daughter of Uma Thurman and Ethan Hawke, makes her acting debut as fearless feminist Jo March in Heidi Thomas’ three-part adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s classic novel, kicking off on Boxing Day.
With the Call The Midwife creator penning the script, director Vanessa Caswill at the helm and Dame Angela Lansbury and Emily Watson taking the strong matriarchal roles of Aunt March and Marmee, both the acting and behind-the-scenes team are female-led.
Hawke, who said she had always connected most with Jo since reading the novel as a child, said: “Women are so in the practise of seeing themselves in male roles.
“We’ve all seen ourselves in the (Catcher In The Rye protagonists) Holden Caulfields and these classics throughout literature, because that’s what you do, you have to read those books, but men haven’t had the same opportunity to see themselves in women.
“It was incredibly wonderful to work with the men on this set who were so willing and interested in seeing themselves both in their own roles and as a member of the story and what it is celebrating.
“Men should be able to see themselves in female characters and female strength just as much as women can see themselves in male characters.”
Hawke has previously commented on how she did not feel the pressure of her first acting role until realising the importance of her character to fans of both the original book and Winona Ryder’s portrayal in the hit 1994 film.
She continued: “The story of Little Women sort has a call to a certain kind of person and if you decide you want to take on that work, it means you are at a place in your life where you are open and ready to examine yourself.
“It asked us all to bring a lot of our individuality and vulnerability to the table.”
Commenting on the men both on and off set – including Jonah Hauer-King as lovable neighbour Laurie Laurence and Michael Gambon as his more serious grandfather, Thomas described their “energy” as an important part of the story.
“It was lovely working with the men because they never know what’s going to happen – they never know that Beth dies,” she said.
“It’s been very nice to have both energies in the room. All of the shows I work on are female dominated. It’s a coming of age novel and it makes for a really universal journey.”
Producer Susie Liggat added: “It’s quite rare to meet a woman who hasn’t read Little Women and a man that has. The title puts them off…they would have to have had a strong mother.”
:: Little Women will begin on BBC One at 8pm on Tuesday, followed by episodes two and three at the same time on Wednesday and Thursday.