Masterpiece brings Jules Verne's classic 'Around the World in 80 Days' to PBS - Albuquerque Journal

Masterpiece brings Jules Verne’s classic ‘Around the World in 80 Days’ to PBS

Ibrahim Koma as Passepartout, David Tennant as Phileas Fogg and Leonie Benesch as Abigail “Fix” Fortescue in “Around the World in 80 Days.” (Courtesy of Slim 80 Days/Federation Entertainment/Peu Communications/ZDF/Be-FILMS/RTBF (Télévision belge)– 2021)

Ibrahim Koma knew that he didn’t want to read Jules Verne’s “Around the World in Eighty Days” before or during filming the upcoming Masterpiece series.

“For me, it wasn’t the right time,” he says. “I’m just reading it now and it’s been amazing.”

At 7:02 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 2, Masterpiece will premiere the first of eight episodes of “Around the World in 80 Days,” on New Mexico PBS. The remaining episodes will air on Sundays through Feb. 20.

David Tennant stars as literature’s greatest explorer, Phileas Fogg. He is joined on his incredible journey by Koma as Jean Passepartout, Fogg’s irrepressible valet; and German actress Leonie Benesch as Abigail “Fix” Fortescue, a determined and headstrong journalist.

The series introduces new themes, characters, and stories, drawing in part on the author’s own personal history of disappointment in love, and also echoing the record breaking around-the-world trip in 1889-90 by journalist Nellie Bly in emulation of Verne’s plot.

Shot on location on two continents, the miniseries follows our heroes as they head east from London on October 5, 1872, intending to make it back to the reading room of the city’s snobbish Reform Club no later than one o’clock on Christmas Eve.

En route, they take ships, trains, balloons, camels, stagecoaches and other conveyances, while meeting increasingly dangerous obstacles. At stake is a wager of 20,000 British pounds, equal to over $3 million in today’s U.S. currency.

The idea for the trip is sparked by a news article reporting a recently finished railway line in India that completes an unbroken chain of modern transportation links spanning the globe, making it possible to circle the planet in 80 days – at least, in theory.

Koma says having advisors on set helped keep the story moving forward.

“We have a strong view of all the characters that we know,” he says. “I felt very confident in the role and Passepartout helped me find a new dimension to myself.”

While being on set seemed to move swimmingly, there were a few obstacles Koma had to get over.

“The English,” Koma, who is French, says with a laugh. “My English wasn’t as good as it is today. I would spend all my time off set reading the script and learning where to put the emphasis on the words. Most of it I couldn’t understand at the time. The pronunciations were difficult, but I worked with a dialog coach and we spent a couple months together. That was the biggest challenge of being part of the series.”

As the series is presented to the world, Koma is hoping an audience takes it in and thinks about the messages.

“I really hope the audience will be able to relate not only from the book, but from their own experiences in life,” he says. “We change the foundations of the characters and we have three characters that work together. We have more complex characters and I think I want people to identify them and understand that, in life, we are different in so many aspects, but the roots are the same. We all come from similar circumstances. You need to accept people as who they are.”

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