Woman Behind Masterpiece Theatre to Speak

Masterpiece Theatre Producer Rebecca Eaton. © 2013 Anthony Tieuli for Masterpiece

If you eagerly await the next season of Downton Abbey or crave more of Benedict Cumberbatch’s exploits as a twenty-first-century Sherlock Holmes, you can thank Rebecca Eaton. If you discovered classic novels by Dickens, Hardy, and Austen through their screen adaptations, or remember the Bellamy household from Upstairs Downstairs, thank Eaton. Prime Suspect, Inspector Morse, and the Oscar-nominated film Mrs. Brown … Eaton again.

She is the producer and driving creative force behind 25 years (and counting) of PBS television’s Masterpiece Theatre, the longest-running weekly prime-time drama series in American history.

On Friday, November 22, Eaton comes to MHC to discuss her new book, Making Masterpiece: 25 Years Behind the Scenes at Masterpiece Theatre and Mystery! on PBS. She will speak at 7 pm in the Art Building’s Gamble Auditorium.

Eaton has interviewed many Masterpiece contributors for the book and added her own behind-the-scenes anecdotes and photographs. She shares stories about actors and others such as Alistair Cooke, Maggie Smith, Diana Rigg, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Daniel Radcliffe, whose first TV role was the title character in David Copperfield.

With a childhood steeped in theatre, an affinity for nineteenth-century novels and culture, and an “accidental apprenticeship” with the BBC, Eaton was practically destined for her award-winning career.

Since taking the helm of the PBS series Masterpiece Theatre and Mystery! in 1985, Eaton has earned a bookcase of accolades, including 42 prime-time Emmy Awards, 17 Peabody Awards, two Golden Globes, and two Academy Award nominations. In 2008, she oversaw the highly successful launch of an updated Masterpiece with its new look, schedule, and hosts. The revamped series has drawn in a new generation of drama fans and increased the size of the series’ core audience. In 2011, Time magazine included her in the list of the world’s 100 most influential people.

Eaton’s visit is sponsored by the Department of Theater Arts, Odyssey Bookshop, and WGBY Channel 57.