His Dark Materials season 2: When does it start? Who’s in the cast? All you need to know about the return of the epic fantasy series

From when it’s back on BBC One to which of Philip Pullman’s books it's based on, we reveal all you need to know about the return of His Dark Materials starring Dafne Keen this autumn.

By Sophia Moir Published: 30 October 2020 - 12.18pm
Drama Freeview

His Dark Materials

BBC/Bad Wolf

Lyra returns in season 2 of fantasy series His Dark Materials, coming soon to BBC One.

Based on Philip Pullman’s trilogy of novels, His Dark Materials takes its brave characters on epic adventures alongside their animal shadows called daemons, exploring a parallel universe in which science, theology and magic are entwined.

The second series, based on Pullman's book The Subtle Knife, introduces the show’s co-lead character Will Parry (played by Amir Wilson, alongside Dafne Keen as Lyra).

From the UK release date on BBC One, to which cast and characters we can expect to see, as well the storyline - here's all you need to know about series 2… 

When does His Dark Materials season 2 start in the UK?

His Dark Materials season 2 premieres Sunday, November 8 at 8.10pm on BBC One. 

It will consist of seven, one-hour episodes, so the season 2 finale is set to air on Sunday, December 20.

Fans in the United States will be able to watch episodes just over a week later, as the series starts on Monday, November 16 on HBO.

What will happen in His Dark Materials season 2?

His Dark Materials is based on Philip Pullman's trilogy of fantasy novels, consisting of Northern Lights (1995), The Subtle Knife (1997), and The Amber Spyglass (2000).

With the first series focusing on the story of Northern Lights, season 2 is primarily adapting the second book in the trilogy, The Subtle Knife.

In the second series, Lord Asriel (James McAvoy) has opened a bridge to a new world, and, distraught over the death of her best friend, Lyra (Dafne Keen) follows Asriel into the unknown.

In a strange and mysterious abandoned city she meets Will (Amir Wilson), a boy from our world who is also running from a troubled past. 

His Dark Materials Will Parry Amir Wilson

Lyra and Will learn their destinies are tied to reuniting Will with his father John (Andrew Scott) but find their path is constantly thwarted as a war begins to brew around them. 

Meanwhile, Mrs Coulter (Ruth Wilson) searches for Lyra, determined to bring her home by any means necessary.

“I think this series is all about trust,” the show's screenwriter Jack Thorne said. “I think what Philip’s written in the Subtle Knife is a beautiful poem about trust, about the way that characters have to learn to trust again.

“Will’s come from a situation where he’s not been able to trust anything, his life has taught him to trust nothing. And Lyra has learnt through series one that she can’t trust anything.”

Who are the cast and characters in His Dark Materials season 2?

Returning cast and characters

Dafne Keen - plays Lyra Belacqua

The heroine of His Dark Materials is orphan Lyra Belacqua, played by Dafne Keen. At the start of season 1, we met Lyra at Jordan College in Oxford, where she’s been left in the care of the scholars and professors by her uncle, Lord Asriel.

But when Lyra met Mrs Coulter and was introduced to a completely different kind of society, her life changed forever.

She set out on a bold adventure to discover more about the sinister disappearances of children, and found herself in an epic battle against celestial powers.

Dafne Keen is a young actress who has previously appeared in series The Refugees, as well as the film Logan alongside Hugh Jackman.

Talking about her character, Keen said: "Lyra is a very curious, cunning, and adventurous girl. She’s very intelligent, street smart, and she's brilliant. I love her. She's a tomboy, definitely."

His Dark Materials Lyra Dafne Keen

Amir Wilson - plays Will Parry

Will Parry made an early introduction to the His Dark Materials world in season 1, beginning his Subtle Knife storyline in the latter half of the series.

In season 2, he's the show's lead character and is set to explore the new worlds with Lyra, and search for his father John (Andrew Scott).

Will is played by Amir Wilson, known for roles in The Secret Garden and The Letter for the King.

 

Ruth Wilson - plays Mrs Coulter

We saw the glamorous Marisa Coulter (played by Ruth Wilson) sweep into Lyra’s life in season 1, transforming everything she knew about the world and introducing her to glittering society parties where dark secrets were exposed.

Like Asriel, we discovered that Mrs Coulter was hiding a complex past that ties her closely to him as well as Lyra.

Coulter is played by Ruth Wilson, known for her role as Alice in Luther, playing the title role in Mrs Wilson, and also starring in The Affair.

Wilson said ahead of the first season premiere: "The books have a vast fanbase and Mrs Coulter has a huge following, both obsessed with her and despising her. To get that tone right and to give the fans what they want is quite a daunting challenge."

His Dark Materials Mrs Coulter Ruth Wilson

Lin-Manuel Miranda - plays Lee Scoresby

Lee Scoresby (played by Lin-Manuel Miranda) is an aeronaut-for-hire who can keep his head in a crisis, although he often get himself embroiled in a heap of trouble.

In season 1, Scoresby helped Lyra out in her quest to find the children who have disappeared, and became one of her closest allies.

Lee is played by Lin-Manuel Miranda, known for writing and starring in musical phenomenon Hamilton and for playing Jack in the film Mary Poppins Returns.

New cast and characters for season 2

Andrew Scott - plays John Parry / Jopari

After a series of cameos in the first season, we are properly introduced to Will’s father Colonel John Parry / Jopari in season 2 - played by Andrew Scott.

Parry is a famous English explorer and a major in the Royal Marines in Will's world. In The Subtle Knife, Lee Scoresby (Lin-Manuel Miranda) is sent to find him and they travel to Cittàgazze together. 

Irish actor Andrew Scott is best known for his Bafta-winning role as Jim Moriarty in the BBC series Sherlock, as well as the Priest in the second series of Fleabag. He's also appeared in films including 1917 and Spectre. 

“It’s always a little bit intimidating to come in, and you don’t want to mess it up,” Scott said of his role.

“But it was really brilliant, and I got to work with incredible actors. Lin, a lot of my stuff was with Lin and we had such a good time, we really did, it was a total joy to do that.”

There will be a mini-Fleabag reunion in His Dark Materials season 2, as Fleabag creator and star Phoebe Waller-Bridge voice's Jopari's daemon, the osprey Sayan Kotor. 

“What’s beautiful to me about the books is the relationship with the dæmons,” Scott commented. 

“The relationship is all about companionship, friendship, and loyalty and that’s what I feel about Phoebe in my real life so it’s wonderful that this is happening.” 

His Dark Materials season 2 Andrew Scott John Parry

Jade Anouka - plays Ruta Skadi

Ruta Skadi is a witch Queen who joins forces with Serafina Pekkala (Ruta Gedmintas) against the Magisterium.

She’s played by English actress Jade Anouka, who’s appeared in Turn Up Charlie, Trauma and Cleaning Up. 

Gangs of London’s Sope Dirisu will voice Ruta Skadi's daemon, Sergi.

 

Terence Stamp - plays Giacomo Paradisi

Giacomo Paradisi is the bearer of the Subtle Knife who lives in the Tower of the Angels in Cittàgazze.

He’s played by Terence Stamp, best known for his roles in the original Superman movies.

 

Simone Kirby - plays Dr Mary Malone

Dr Mary Malone is a scientist who studies dark matter and ends up a key ally for heroes Lyra (Dafne Keen) and Will in this series.

She’s played by Irish actress Simone Kirby, known for roles in Rebellion, Peaky Blinders and Jimmy’s Hall.

His Dark Materials Simone Kirby Dr Mary

Is James McAvoy back as Lord Asriel?

One character who’s notably missing from His Dark Materials season 2 is Lord Asriel (played by James McAvoy), a slightly mysterious figure whose true past became clear as the story unfolded in season 1.

McAvoy is thought to be returning in season 3, but a standalone episode featuring Lord Asriel that was planned for season 2 wasn’t able to be filmed due to the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, according to industry website Deadline

This is why the series had to be cut from eight episodes to seven.

Where was His Dark Materials season 2 filmed?

Filming for His Dark Materials season 2 started before the first season premiered in November 2019, and wrapped up by Christmas 2019.

Like season 1, much of the series has been filmed at Wolf Studios in Cardiff, Wales, where the show’s production company Bad Wolf Productions is based.

This includes Cittàgazze, a city in a parallel world haunted by soul-eating creatures called Spectres. The city has been impressively built in its entirety on the studio's lots.

His Dark Materials filming location

What happened in the first season of His Dark Materials?

Season 1 of His Dark Materials introduced us to orphan Lyra, who was being brought up at Jordan College, Oxford. She had been left by her uncle, Lord Asriel, in the care of the scholars and professors.

She was living in a parallel universe to ours where magic, theology and science are all intertwined.

Everyone has an ever-present daemon - a spirit guide - who takes an animal form but who has the speech and intelligence of a human.

But her sheltered existence was shattered by meeting the glamorous Mrs Coulter, who showed her the wider world of London and introduced her to a glittering society party, where she first heard about the sinister General Oblation Board.

She was then taken in by the boat-dwelling Gyptians, who took her North on her quest to discover more about a plot involving stolen children, and a mysterious phenomenon called Dust.

Lyra’s allies included the aeronaut and adventurer Lee Scoresby, a young boy called Will and an armoured bear called Iorek Byrnison as together they fought a war against celestial powers and Lyra discovered who her parents really are...

Have there been previous adaptations of the His Dark Materials trilogy?

Yes, the trilogy is such a hit that it’s been adapted a number of different times – for radio, on the stage, and in a movie.

Probably the best known version is the 2007 film The Golden Compass, which starred Nicole Kidman, Daniel Craig and Dakota Blue Richards.

Watch the trailer for His Dark Materials season 2

Keep watching after the trailer for exclusive interviews with the cast and crew… 

His Dark Materials premieres Sunday, November 8 at 8.10pm on BBC One. 

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