If you're feeling the urge to be immersed in another world - and who isn't right now? - look no further than His Dark Materials.

The compelling fantasy drama, with its themes of science, magic, religion and mortality, is based on Philip Pullman's trilogy of novels and follows teens Lyra Belacqua (Dafne Keen) and Will Parry (Amir Wilson) as they wander through a series of parallel universes.

The second series is primarily an adaptation of the second book - 1997's The Subtle Knife - and 15-year-old Keen describes it as "so much rawer and so much more emotional".

In series one, Lyra's best friend Roger died, which left Lyra - and viewers - distraught.

Lord Asriel (James McAvoy) - who we discovered in the last series is Lyra's father - has now opened a bridge to a new world.

And Lyra decides to follow her dad into the unknown, where she finds a new sidekick; Will, a boy from our world, who she meets in a strange, abandoned city.

He is there looking for the truth behind the disappearance of his father (Andrew Scott) and it turns out Lyra's and Will's destinies are intertwined - but a war brewing around them threatens to get in the way.

And then there's Mrs Coulter (Ruth Wilson), who is the leader of the evil child abductors The Gobblers and is determined to find her daughter, Lyra.

Intrigued? Here, Keen, Wilson, and their new co-star Simone Kirby, tell us more.


Rising star Keen - who made her big-screen debut in 2017 film Logan, alongside Hugh Jackman - describes Lyra as "adventurous and by that, I don't mean fearless".

"She is afraid, but she overcomes it," explains the Spanish-British actress, whose dad, Will Keen, also stars in His Dark Materials (her mum is The Mallorca Files actress Maria Fernandez Ache).

"Also, she's mischievous and ever curious and trying to figure out what is going in the world.

"Lyra doesn't believe in the establishment or rules and does whatever the hell she wants."

Wilson discusses Will's backstory, noting he's a 15-year-old boy from Oxford in our world who goes to a normal school.

"But he is a bit of an outcast compared to everyone else," elaborates the star, 16, who has appeared in Netflix series, The Letter for the King.

"He doesn't have many friends and is kind of a loner. He dedicates his life to looking after his mum and making sure she's OK because his dad disappeared when he was younger, and supposedly died.

"His mother always tells him he's going to take up his father's mantle, but he doesn't really know what that means."


Irish actress Kirby - probably best known for Ken Loach film, Jimmy's Hall - is a huge fan of Pullman, gushing: "Every time someone asked me what my favourite book was, I'd say, 'You've got to read The Northern Lights trilogy'."

So, understandably, she felt a "huge pressure" joining the TV adaptation as scientist Mary Malone.

"I loved the character and my husband did - and my husband's father was a huge fan of the books and a huge fan in particular of that character.

"Mary Malone is such an Irish name, I was just delighted they decided to go Irish because very often that doesn't happen."

As Kirby explains, Mary was a nun - working in our world - but has left the church, about seven years before we meet her in the story.

"She went further into her studies and her specific area of study is called 'Dark Matter', which is what we call 'Dust' in Lyra's world.

"She has become obsessed with what this thing is and that's where we meet her."


There are so many impressive fantastical elements to the show, from panserbjorne, also known as armoured bears - giant polar bear-like creatures - to daemons.

(For those not in the know, in His Dark Materials, every human has a physical representation of their own soul called a daemon which takes the shape of an animal).

In series two, we are introduced to spectres; lingering dark spirits which have escaped from the void between universes.

The production team hadn't developed what the spectres were going to look like during filming, and so Keen and Wilson had to use their imagination.

"It was quite strange," recalls Keen, "because with the daemons, at least you have a puppet, and you know what you're doing, and with the polar bears, you're riding on this rig and stuff."

To get into the headspace for the scenes with the spectres, they "got told to jump and stuff to be out of breath", says Keen.

"On-the-spot running!" adds Wilson.

"There's a scene where Will chases the spectre with a knife and that was cool," he continues.

"I mean, I was actually just pointing a knife at nothing! But I got to imagine what they would be doing, and they told me how it would move.

"You've just got to get yourself in the mood. Since you didn't actually know what they look like, we could imagine them as anything that was scary to us."


The Golden Compass was previously made into a film in 2007; it starred Dakota Fanning as Lyra, Daniel Craig as Lord Asriel and Nicole Kidman as Mrs Coulter.

"I think pressure-wise, between comparing the film and the show, I got a lot of people on set who knew Dakota, being like, 'Well, you know, Dakota this, and Dakota that'. So I didn't really get it from the fans, I got it more from people who originally worked on The Golden Compass.

"It kind of felt like a life project for them."

Keen didn't start reading the books until she got the part, and then found she couldn't leave them alone.

"I was on set and everyone was like, 'Can you please socialise?'" she quips.

"I read all three books back-to-back and then I re-read book one while doing series and I re-read book two. Book three is personally my favourite."

When on set, you "constantly have Philip in your head", Keen admits.

"I like to think of where my character is going," she elaborates.

"I don't want the character to be flat, I want to give it character development.

"So, if it's going to end up being an incredible character, I want to start it off by being arrogant and egotistic and a character that feels human, that feels like someone going through change, is growing, is becoming better."

His Dark Materials, BBC1, tonight, 8.10pm