The biggest change that Apple TV+‘s The Buccaneers makes from Edith Wharton’s final, unfinished novel might not be the one that you think. Okay, Wharton didn’t have a well-timed Taylor Swift/Phoebe Bridgers needle drop worked into the margins of her manuscript, sure, but according to Buccaneers showrunner Katherine Jakeways, the biggest shift from page to screen has to do with heroine Nan St. George (Kristine Froseth) and her parentage…
**Spoilers for The Buccaneers Episodes 1-3, now streaming on Apple TV+**
About three quarters of the way through The Buccaneers Episode 1 “American Poison,” Nan St. George drops a shoe on a cake during the debutante ball, solidifying the handsome Guy Thwarte’s (Matthew Broome) affection for her and ruining sister Jinny’s (Imogen Waterhouse) special moment with Lord James Seadown (Barney Fishwick). After their mother Virginia (Christina Hendricks) defends Nan from Jinny’s attacks, the elder girl storms off. When Nan confronts her sister, the jealous Jinny finally lets it slip that the reason she finds their mother’s devotion to Nan so unfair is because Nan isn’t even Virginia’s real daughter. Nan was the product of one of their father’s many dalliances, adopted into the family to avoid a scandal. All at once Nan’s world comes crashing down.
According to Jakeways, this radical change from the book came because the writers wanted “sort of more for Nan” than just her delicious love triangle with Guy Thwarte and Theo, Duke of Tintagel (Guy Remmers).
“We talked about issues of identity and the fact that it’s sort of useful to make her a little bit more of an underdog perhaps,” Jakeways said. “All people of all ages are struggling for their place in the world and trying to work out who they are and who they want to be. But it’s a sort of coming of age story for Nan, isn’t it? She’s coming into this adventure in another country and trying to work out who she is.”
Jakeways revealed that at first they considered maybe Nan wasn’t really her father’s daughter, because that would be your “first instinct” in storytelling. It would be “conventional,” but “still sort of horrifying” for Nan to discover.
“But then we went, ‘Oh, actually, it might be even more interesting if it turns out that her mother isn’t her mother.’ So we tried it and it just felt really interesting in terms of the themes of motherhood and female relationships that we wanted to put into the show,” Jakeways said, adding that it also adds complexity to Mrs. St. George.
Of course, Nan’s newfound knowledge that she’s not her mother’s daughter — that she’s illegitimate — has bigger repercussions than just sparking some family drama.
Not only does this mean Nan is technically illegitimate, but it also could sink her chances at making a proper match. Bastards were considered undesirables, no matter how much money their parents had or how much they were loved. Nan understands this and immediately realizes that by divulging her new secret to new friend/crush Guy, she’s opened herself up to social ruin. So much so, she assumes that Guy left her side because he was so disgusted by Nan’s truth…wholly unaware that he returned to her the next day.
Guy returns just in time to see best friend Theo propose to Nan. She accepts the dashing Theo, wholly unaware that he is a Duke, a revelation that sends the understated beauty spiraling. Not only that, but it seems that the rest of the season will hinge on Nan’s impossible choice between two perfectly wonderful suitors: Theo, the Duke who can give her the life of any woman’s dreams, and Guy, the one man who knows her secret truth.
“We love the love triangle, and absolutely, unashamedly, will spend time in that story strand as well,” Jakeways said. “We love, you know, the fact that we’ve managed to make that hopefully a sort of genuine ‘Which choice is right for her?’ On one day, it could be Team Guy and on one day it could be Team Theo.”
So if you’re finding yourself torn between whether or not Kristine Froseth’s Nan should choose the artistic and rich, beach-bound dreamboat played by Guy Remmers or Matthew Broome’s dashing, impoverished hunk fond of dancing on stairs…well, blame it on The Buccaneers writers. They wanted the choice to be hard.