Russell’s life onscreen

The other day, a charming appointment popped up on my e-calendar:

This was to remind me of a video conference with the English team working to bring Russell to the screen.  And despite smoke in the air, the occasional rolling blackout, and the inevitable problems of getting Microsoft to talk to Apple, we managed to meet up.

Once we’d linked up, I started the discussion by saying that I had a really important question for them.

They did look slightly alarmed—since this was a first meet with one and only the second for the other.  Good lord, you could see them think: do we have one of those writers on our hands?  The kind who starts out pushy and gets worse?

But no, I hope I’m not one of those writers.  Instead, my question was: “So, are you two having fun yet?”

And the answer I got was, oh yes indeed, they were—all kinds of fun.

Now, I have no way of knowing whether Russell & Holmes will show up in your living rooms.  I do feel very positive about the project, and these people certainly have the experience and resources to see it through. But to have people who clearly adore Mary Russell, who want to bring me in as a consultant on basic decisions, and whose enthusiasm was palpable—well, all I can say is, Mary Russell is in good hands.


  1. Wanda Cole on September 9, 2020 at 10:46 am

    YES!! I thought Mary Russell should have been on screen years ago. I can’t wait. I will of course. But, I will wait with excitement in my mind and heart. Well actually I will look forward like all Mary Russell fans. Congratulations.

    • Laurie King on September 9, 2020 at 11:50 am

      Me too!

      • Lenore Kay on September 15, 2020 at 12:48 pm

        I laughed out loud at the suggestion of Nathan Lane as Mrs. Hudson but having just finished reading the murder of Mary Russell I’m wishing it could’ve been Judith Dench

        • Laurie King on September 15, 2020 at 4:50 pm

          Oh, she would make such a deliciously tart old lady, it’s true.

          • Diane on September 15, 2020 at 5:27 pm


    • LT Silverman on September 15, 2020 at 11:56 am

      Me, too. My imagination is working overtime casting the characters.

    • CC McD on September 15, 2020 at 6:37 pm

      I truly think that it would be best to cast actors who are fairly unknown. And to make sure that Ms. King is part of the casting committee.

  2. Louise Clark on September 9, 2020 at 11:17 am

    I love this idea. Any ideas about casting?

    • Laurie King on September 9, 2020 at 11:49 am

      Many ideas. And you?

      • Leigh Miller on September 9, 2020 at 12:10 pm

        I have thoughts 😁
        For Holmes, Benedict Cumberbatch or Matthew Goode (both just a little young but doable), or perhaps one of the Hughs: Hugh Jackman or Hugh Laurie.
        I think Mary is harder to cast. My current front runner (but she is getting a bit older) Elizabeth Debicki, Saoise Ronan (a bit short), or Elle Fanning.

        • Karen Greene on September 15, 2020 at 11:54 am

          Saffron Burrows or perhaps Laura Dern?

          • Patrick OConnor on September 15, 2020 at 2:49 pm

            Casting involves some decisions as to how the series (assuming it is a series and not standalone film) begins. Do we jump in somewhere in the canon with the married Russell and her husband or do we start at the beginning with the 15 year old girl American girl meeting the 54 year old man on the Sussex downs. If so, do you cast two women, one younger then one older as the adventures continue. A novel a season would be fun. The challenge is to find an female actor young enough and talented enough to play both. The brilliant Florence Pugh comes to mind. She is the only actor to play Amy March in Little Women young and old. But I do have mixed feeling about how successful that was. She also is on the verge of great stardom and might not be available.

            I would look very closely at Julia Garner. She is an Emmy winner for Ozark and is an Oscar front runner for The Assistant. The Assistant is currently streaming on Hulu.

            If you are looking for a long series you don’t want to cast Holmes too old. If we start at his actual age of 54 I checked actors born in 1966 and hit upon two interesting choices. A more traditional choice but a good one would be Greg Wise. He is most famous as Willoughby in Emma Thompson’s adaptation of Sense and Sensibility . He impressed her so that they have been married ever since. And how about Emma as Patricia Donleavy. The odd but interesting choice would be The Office’s Rainn Wilson. He is eccentric with a great well of emotion. All who know speak of his great empathy for people.

            Emma and Greg


            Rainn as self.

          • Laurie King on September 15, 2020 at 4:49 pm

            All of those would be great fun, and yes, we’re waiting to see what the crew have in mind!

        • Eva Marie on September 15, 2020 at 12:23 pm

          Ooh Hugh Laurie would be a fantastic Holmes. Mary is a bit of a challenge though

          • Stephanie on September 15, 2020 at 9:32 pm

            I can’t help but think of Emma Watson. She’s young enough to pull off the age and definitely has the spunk and talent. I love the idea of Greg Wise as Sherlock as well.

        • Andrea Burniske on September 15, 2020 at 3:00 pm

          Dakota Fanning, not Elle. Dakota was fab in The Alienists. Hugh Laurie would make a great Holmes.

          • Laurie King on September 15, 2020 at 4:47 pm

            He would be fun, I agree!

          • JoAnn on October 26, 2020 at 3:48 pm

            Hugh Laurie as Sherlock and Stephen Frye as Mycroft.

  3. Margaret Laing on September 9, 2020 at 11:26 am

    Hooray! I am glad to know that you feel this way. Since in other cases I get in arguments (the logical kind, of course) about Book Character vs. Screen Character, I am reassured that you are involved.

    • Laurie King on September 9, 2020 at 11:49 am

      Fingers crossed…

      • Stephanie on September 15, 2020 at 9:38 pm

        I started reading this series in ’95 when it first came out, and have frequently wished it would make it to the big screen! I literally squealed with joy when I read it could become a reality. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that you are able to guide this process through. Thank you for sharing such amazing and dear characters with us!!

  4. Carol Williamson on September 9, 2020 at 11:37 am

    A favorite game at our house is fantasy casting a Russell and Holmes production. Glad to hear that the fantasy is at least a few steps closer to reality. If you are happy, we are happy.

    • Laurie King on September 9, 2020 at 11:50 am

      So far, so good.

  5. niall O'Grady on September 9, 2020 at 3:28 pm

    Great to hear that Russell might be hitting the small screen. Better still that they are involving you….no problems like those who were involved in casting Tom cruise as Reacher

    • Leslie S. Klinger on September 15, 2020 at 12:21 pm

      Ooh, Tom Cruise as Holmes–perhaps Angelina Jolie as Russell? And–wait for it–Nathan Lane as Mrs. Hudson?

      Please feel free, Laurie, to pass these suggestions on to your development team.

      • Laurie King on September 15, 2020 at 12:40 pm

        I’d definitely love to see Nathan Lane in a Paul Poiret dress…

  6. Corrie on September 9, 2020 at 5:13 pm

    Finally! I’ve wanted Russel and Holmes on screen since first reading “The Beekeper’s Apprentice!” as a teen. How exciting. I hope the plans work out and everything comes together to give us a great adaptation. Hopefully something with the attention to detail that we saw in ITV’s productions of Suchet’s Hercule Poirot, Granada’s production of Brett’s version of Holmes or the more recent Miss Fisher mysteries.

    Hopeful and excited!

  7. Lisa Sclafani on September 10, 2020 at 11:15 am

    I hope it gets picked up by PBS America so we can all see it. Every time I read one of the books, in my head, it’s a movie. I love movies shot on location, so hope these are shot with some on location parts. Locations are truly a character in your books, as you have previously stated. Good luck and can’t wait! Keep us updated.

  8. Robin Sharp on September 11, 2020 at 7:46 pm

    I am sorry to say both my husband and I just discovered Laurie R King and the Russell/Holmes series. After having finished the Beekeepers Apprentice I told Matt I had a concern; how had we — two avid mystery readers and Matt a Holmes aficionado — not discovered this series earlier?
    So now we are catching up!
    I too thought these would do wellas Masterpiece
    Theater productions or something of equal value. Can’t wait!

    • Laurie King on September 15, 2020 at 12:41 pm

      Welcome to the hive, Robin!

  9. Laura S. Thomas on September 15, 2020 at 12:12 pm

    While I love some of the actors mentioned, maybe it would be better to cast relative unknowns!
    Sometimes too many preconceived notions can spoil things. Regardless, I can’t wait for it to
    happen! The Masterpiece Theatre mysteries have all been extremely well done, I can only hope
    whoever films Holmes and Russell does as good a job. Congratulations.

    • Laurie King on September 15, 2020 at 12:13 pm

      Yes, fingers crossed.

    • Beth Glixon on September 15, 2020 at 5:53 pm

      I agree. “Relatively unknown” would be much better. There are so many great actors out there.

  10. Joyce Green on September 15, 2020 at 1:28 pm

    Oh God…I’m remembering Paramount’s disastrous production of Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe stories, and A&E’s absolutely masterful treatment of them. An example of the worst and the best. I’ll keep my fingers crossed and hope for the best!

  11. Beth Glixon on September 15, 2020 at 2:59 pm

    I (like Robin Sharp and her husband) am new to the “game.” I think I’ve read eight of the books in the past 6 weeks. And having discovered “Letters of Mary,” have also read many of those files as well. It’s been a wonderful ride so far. I was in Jerusalem last year, so very much enjoyed O Jerusalem. I haven’t read Island of the Mad yet. Venice is something of a second home to me (it’s my “research home”), so I’m saving it. I’ll always think of this series as my “Covid Gold.” Would love to see it on TV, with the right couple, of course.

    • Laurie King on September 15, 2020 at 4:48 pm

      Ah, escape–physical or virtual…

  12. Pat Hathaway on September 15, 2020 at 3:25 pm

    I’m so excited at the prospect of seeing Mary and Holmes o n tv!!! I tried to tell my husband and he couldn’t understand my excited speech. When I finally got through to him he was excited too! I hope they do a great job and don’t mess it up like the people who made Jane Austen’s Sanditon did. I’ll keep my fingers crossed for you and them.

  13. Anne Gordon on September 15, 2020 at 4:02 pm

    In thinking about casting an actor to play Holmes, I hope that his quality of being the ultimate Grown-up is recognized and that the role is not given to the boyish actors that are now so popular. Looking forward to seeing it!

    • Laurie King on September 15, 2020 at 4:47 pm

      Me too!

    • Beth Glixon on September 15, 2020 at 5:55 pm

      I wish we could somehow bring back Jeremy Brett!

      • Martha on December 5, 2020 at 1:01 am

        Oh, I so agree – IMHO, Brett captured Holmes’ essence better than any other.

      • Jack McKinney on February 9, 2021 at 2:28 pm

        With deepfake tech, that’s technically possible, if prohibitively expensive. 🙂

  14. Diane on September 15, 2020 at 5:57 pm

    Keeping in mind the miscasting of Tom Cruise as Reacher due to the height issue, we need a tall actress. Elle Fanning is 5’9” while Dakota is 5’4”. It seems to me that the many of the younger actresses are short (Emma Watson 5’5” and Saorise Ronan 5’6”). I like the idea of Hugh Laurie (6’2”) as Holmes because, to me, he fits physically, and he is a superb actor. A couple other possibles – Ralph Filene’s (5’11”), Colin Firth (6’2”), and Hugh Jackman (6’3”). Casting unknowns would dispel any preconceived ideas we all have as long as they fit the basic physical descriptions. It will be fun to see how it all goes.

    • Diane on September 15, 2020 at 5:58 pm

      Ralph Fiennes NOT Filene’s. I need to shoot autocorrect!

  15. Caroline Gaudy on September 15, 2020 at 6:33 pm

    I would adore Helen Mirren as Mrs. Hudson, particularly in the latest story, but doubt she’d take the small role?

  16. Nancy Sheinbaum on September 15, 2020 at 10:14 pm

    Yes! This is exciting news! YOur books will make great tv shows.

  17. K on September 16, 2020 at 6:17 am

    Emma Thompson is my vote for Mrs. Husdon – She’s amazing 🙂

  18. Susan on September 16, 2020 at 9:29 am

    Very excited at the prospect of seeing Mary Russell and Holmes right in my own living room.
    I agree with others who suggest Masterpiece Mystery as an ideal US home for their adventures. Can just see/hear Alan Cumming , with arched brow, introducing the series .
    Congratulations to LRK, and all Mary’s far flung fans.
    PS Imelda Staunton would be a fine, peppery Mrs. Hudson

  19. Kelli on September 16, 2020 at 11:14 am

    I like the idea of making new stars of new people. So, so glad for you and all of us!

  20. lauren h coodley on September 16, 2020 at 11:19 am

    don’t get a conventionally pretty actress for Mary. emma watson is the only name that appeals. get someone who is athletic, intellectual, adventurous, probably an English actress. someone that most men wouldn’t pay attention to. glasses, serious, scholarly.

  21. Ruthann Mitchell on September 17, 2020 at 11:39 pm

    . I long for Jeremy Brett also. He was sublime. No equal alas.

  22. Ruthann Mitchell on September 17, 2020 at 11:45 pm

    Agree re: “the Dames: Judi & Helen! 2 absolute faves & role models.

  23. Kelly Marquardt on September 21, 2020 at 2:01 pm

    I read my Russells over and over again; I wish they could be written as fast as I can read them! Lovely attention to detail and plot.

    Okay – My perfect Mary Russell showed up on a season of the Great British Baking Show – Ruby, a tall, lanky, slim young woman with long, curly, strawberry blonde hair, and glasses and eyes to match Ms. King’s description. Her manner was differential, but she was extremely intelligent, working on mastering a philosophy degree aside from the baking show.

    • Laurie King on September 29, 2020 at 5:03 pm

      I haven’t seen her, but yes, I do hope they capture some of her physical characteristics.

  24. Heidi DeSilva on September 23, 2020 at 1:04 pm

    It is SO discouraging when a favorite novel or series comes the the screen (both large & small) only to have the characters portrayed by actors who do not resemble what the author intended. Thank goodness you will be on hand to keep them on the straight & narrow!!

    • Laurie King on September 29, 2020 at 5:00 pm

      I will try, I promise!

  25. Les on September 24, 2020 at 9:17 am

    I like the idea of Elle Fanning (is Brie Larson too old now?) and Mathew Goode. And sure, Emma Thompson as Mrs. Hudson! Lily James (is that her name?) is too old for Mary now, I suppose.

  26. Kimberly Patterson on September 27, 2020 at 1:37 pm

    I’ve always pictured Leelee Sobieski and Ralph Fiennes as Russell and Holmes but I suppose Leelee is too old now for this to happen. Ah well, if this makes it to the States I will definitely watch regardless of casting!

    • Laurie King on September 29, 2020 at 4:59 pm

      Hmm, in her 30s yes, a little old for it. But Fiennes would be great fun.

  27. Debbie on September 28, 2020 at 12:49 pm

    Oh Jerusalem was the first book of the Mary Russel/Holmes series. I fell in love with it immediately and have since re-read that first book while waiting, patiently, for the most recent book to be released.
    Oh Jerusalem captured the essence of the Holmes character and established Mary Russel as a complex, multi-faceted, intriguing, engaging counterpart for Holmes. The interaction between Mary and Holmes is exquisite and their relationship is so real. Depth of character and depth of emotion sold me on the whole series.
    I, too, am thrilled that there will be a series based on your novels.
    I have great distrust, however, in how books translate into film. For the most part, the film script seeks least common denominator where the lowest of human aspirations are enhanced.
    Maslow’s Hierarchy of Human Needs explains this perfectly. As a nurse, we studied moral and ethical issues and the development of morality in children. This foundation has led me to seek out books that demonstrate the higher qualities in the characters as they grapple with a world immersed in the lowest values.
    With that in mind, I hope that you WILL have some say in the people chosen to portray these exceptional characters, who do demonstrate the higher values of being a human being in a very corrupt world.
    Please take your time and choose the main actors/actresses who have demonstrated a broad set of acting skills.
    I have been watching lots of the old silent movies and early movies through the 40’s. The actresses/actors were so well trained, and the script/production highlighted the inner aspects of the characters so well. So much character development!
    When I think of your books being brought to live on the big screen, I envision the “product” being like the early movie productions…….based on quality, depth of human experience.
    I also hope it will be a series accessible to those who may not be able to afford the high price for adding tv channels to their already expensive media deals.
    I wish you the very best and want to thank you for the profound, thought-provoking books.
    I love your background in theology and how your understanding of the human condition is demonstrated in your writing.
    God bless you! 🙂

    • Laurie King on September 29, 2020 at 4:57 pm

      Thanks for this, Debbie, and yes, I believe the current production company is filled with respect and affection for the characters, and that it may well spill over into their work on-screen. We can only try our best!

  28. debbie aqula on September 28, 2020 at 12:57 pm

    I’m sure we all can think of actors and actresses we would like to tackle the complex roles of Sherlock Holmes and Mary Russel and the host of secondary, but important, associates in their lives.

    I hope you find some classically trained actors and actresses who can capture depth of feeling and are well versed in their craft.

    Your stories capture some of the “heroes’ journey” described by Joseph Campbell. Rich content!

    I hope you love your work as much as I do because I then know you will continue writing this series forever. Ha ha! That’s wishful thinking from a fan of worthwhile literature.

    Your books are high quality!

    🙂 Continue!

    • Laurie King on September 29, 2020 at 4:55 pm

      Thank you, Debbie–I shall write as long as I can, as many as I can. But then, none of us can ask for more, can we?

  29. Bridgette K. on September 28, 2020 at 9:04 pm

    Is it sad that this makes me sad? Scared, maybe? I’ve read these books so many times I feel like I can recite parts of them in my sleep. I FEEL like I AM Russell and I feel so protective of her and Holmes and the version I have of them in my imagination that it feels…like it would be hard for me to share them.

    However, I must admit that time and time again I’ve thought about who I would cast in such a situation! I think Peter Capaldi would be a SMASHING Holmes!

    • Laurie King on September 29, 2020 at 4:54 pm

      Capaldi would be fun, indeed. And we can only hope that the translators do a good job in moving from print to screen….

  30. DEBBIE on September 29, 2020 at 4:47 pm





    • Laurie King on September 29, 2020 at 4:52 pm

      Fingers crossed, Debbie!

  31. Jennifer on September 30, 2020 at 11:57 am

    What about Nicolas Rowe? He played Young Sherlock Holmes when he was young and fits the height and age requirements… I think he would be lovely.
    Mary is definitely going to be tough to cast, but I don’t think Emma Watson should play her… as sweet and good as she is…

    • Laurie King on September 30, 2020 at 8:34 pm

      Tough indeed, I’m glad it’s not my job!

  32. Jennifer on September 30, 2020 at 8:17 pm

    I’ve just thought of who could play Russell… Bernadette Banner… she’s not an actress, but I feel she would be awesome! Look her up on YouTube..she has a channel…
    Btw, love your books of Russell and Holmes; I’ve gotten my mom hooked on them!

    • Laurie King on September 30, 2020 at 8:31 pm

      Thanks for the tip, Jennifer!

  33. Angie on October 8, 2020 at 11:00 am


  34. Michael R Bush on October 17, 2020 at 10:56 am

    Some internet chatter about Ryan Reynolds as Holmes in a new netflix movie. Anything to do with Ms. Russell?

    • Laurie King on May 5, 2021 at 12:45 am

      Not that I know of!

  35. Melissa on November 24, 2020 at 8:50 am

    Hooray and many congratulations on the possibility of bringing your excellent stories and characters to life on the screen! I wish you and those casting all the best as you search for the very tall (must be!) and androgynous young actress whose brains enter the room first; Mary’s brilliance is her most attractive quality, nestled in her enormous and empathetic heart.

  36. Bess Y. on November 29, 2020 at 2:02 pm

    I’m so biased because I love Elementary, but I think Jonny Lee Miller would smash Laurie’s Holmes. He’s just about the right age, too. Of course it would be odd for one actor to play two different incarnations of the same chapter, but so much FUN. He’s already played a true partnership on Elementary, which differs from the usual Holmes/Watson dynamic, and I think that would work well with Russell. I feel like he looks very much like a Holmes – prominent nose, angular features, etc. He has a very distinctive squint as well, haha. And his ACTING. Words fail me. I’m thinking of the scene deep in Beekeeper when he thinks he’s slipping, and JLM would absolutely do it justice. (Think of the scene where he fears he’s losing his memory in season 6! )

    As for Russ, I’d be interested in seeing Saoirse Ronan tackle the part!

  37. Kath on December 19, 2020 at 8:31 pm

    I just watched the series and then listened to the audiobook of The Queens’ Gambit. There were minor changes in the TV script (actual improvements) but I think they managed the difficult transition from book to screen very very well. I hope your writers and crew show the same respect to your work as those writers did to ‘Gambit.’ Maybe you can get them if the current producers drop out. They made watching chess interesting. If they can do that, Russell and Holmes would be the bees knees.

    • Laurie King on May 5, 2021 at 12:39 am

      I have my fingers crossed…

  38. Patricia Barlosky on December 30, 2020 at 11:11 am

    Hello Ms. King –

    Re: Russell’s life onscreen

    Whenever I visualize Russell and Holmes, it is always with the same two actors (but it would require CGI technology to create the film).

    Because Russell is young and intelligent, tall, slim, and blond, capable of adopting disguises and posing as a man (The Game) – I see Gwyneth Paltrow in her early 20s, playing both a male and female role in Shakespeare in Love.

    And because this particular Holmes must combine all the traditional characteristics with a convincing (but non-creepy) version of a sophisticated, older male romantic lead – I see Jeremy Brett, for my favorite Holmes portrayal, but also for his Maxim de Winter in the 1979 version of Rebecca.

    So perhaps the most satisfying film version will exist only in my imagination!

    • Laurie King on May 5, 2021 at 12:36 am

      As always, imagination is best.
      But Gwyneth Paltrow? Sorry, I’d always look at her and think the weirdness of her Goop business.

  39. Judy Stanton on January 4, 2021 at 11:08 am

    Elizabeth Debicki. Excellent actress, very tall, could easily play Mary Russell at any age.
    Still, I love the novels so much…if the producers get it wrong, shame on them! (Case in point: “The Magicians” trilogy by Lev Grossman._

    • Laurie King on May 5, 2021 at 12:33 am

      Yes, once things leave an author’s hands, it’s hard to control.

  40. Bryan Wyled on February 23, 2021 at 4:15 pm

    These days trails of information can lead in surprising directions. I had never heard of Mary Russel, but I’ve been listening to a radio play by Shaun Prendergast and his biography revealed that he had dramatised a novel called ‘The Bee Keepers Apprentice. On further enquiry, I discover that this is the first book of a long running series. As you can deduce, I then found the author’s website and here I am in England, reading that a TV series might emerge. I enjoyed the USA series ‘Elementary’ and a Mary Russel series would be a fitting continuation. My next task is to actually read a Laurie King book! Long overdue, I guess?

    • Laurie King on May 5, 2021 at 12:23 am

      Oh how funny–yes, he did the BBC Radio four-part dramatization years and years ago.

  41. Wendy Mellor on February 6, 2023 at 1:28 pm

    The Mary Russel Sherlock Holmes stories are so rich, intriguing and fun to read. The challenge of creating them on screen will be gigantic, but hey I would be the first in line to see them.
    Holmes has to be dignified, mature and brilliant in a charming way.
    Mary – strong , assertive , and attractive with a unique presence.
    I am watching a series on PBS = Miss Scarlet and the Duke who is played by a Scottish actor Stuart Martin. Perhaps he could manage the great Sherlock Holmes

    • Laurie King on February 7, 2023 at 12:26 pm

      I think that gent is a little young for a Russellian Holmes, but yes, it would be fun to see them onscreen.

  42. Elizabeth McDaniel on July 30, 2023 at 12:02 pm

    Im re-re-reading the series and every time I do, I wonder about movies or a tv series (yes, please!). Mary is my comfort zone.

    Is this still in the works?

    • Laurie King on August 7, 2023 at 10:51 pm

      Not at the time being–there was a project, but it rather fell to pieces during the pandemic, I’m afraid. And currently, with everyone on strike, the interests are temporarily on hold.
      One never knows, though!

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