V.C. Andrews created quite a sensation in 1979 with her gothic tale Flowers in the AtticThe tale of siblings who are imprisoned in their grandparent’s attic as their mother tries to win back the love of her dying estranged father touched on shocking and taboo topics.  

Lifetime offers a closer look at the events that resulted in the children being locked away with the limited series “Flowers in the Attic: The Origin.” The first episode airs at 8 p.m. July 9 with additional episodes airing consecutively over four weeks.

The limited series tells the story of the determined Olivia Winfield (Jemima Rooper) who is unexpectedly wooed by one of the nation’s most eligible bachelors, Malcolm Foxworth (Max Irons). After a whirlwind romance, Olivia soon discovers that the fairytale life she expected has quickly become a nightmare because under Malcolm’s debonair exterior lies a dark heart.

Irons got a preview of the kind of character he would be playing before he started filming. He was aware of the book but had never read it.

“When I was thinking of doing this job I would say to people, ‘Yeah, I’m considering taking this job “Flowers in the Attic”,’ and the looks on their faces told me a lot,” Irons says. “I then looked into it and the sort of morbid curiosity in me drew me in.

“I think that that’s what a lot of people feel about V.C. Andrews and these books. Malcolm is a bit of a monster. He’s a megalomaniac. He’s a narcissist. He’s psychopathic at moments. But it’s my job not to judge him. It’s to ask why he is the way he is.”

Olivia Winfield makes some horrible decisions but Rooper never looked at her as being a monster. She found it easy to sympathize with the character because she was just misunderstood.

Rooper had not read any of the works by Andrews until she was cast in the made-for-cable production. Her first real introduction was through being sent all four scripts for the limited series. That surprised her because the norm is for her to only get a scene or two before filming starts.

It ended up being a good thing that Rooper got to see all of the scripts because the filming would have her going to Romania for four months just after having a baby. Rooper was so intrigued by getting to play Olivia Winfield that she signed on to the project.

Rooper knew that because of the pandemic, she would not be able to fly back and forth during the four months of filming. That meant going home was never an option.

“My family actually came with me.  I had my partner and my oldest son there for the first two months and then me and the baby stayed for the second two months,” Rooper says. “And I had lots of help.

“It was weird because it was probably the first job I’ve ever done where I haven’t socialized with the rest of the cast, which was probably for the best because I’m not sure I would’ve been able to keep up with my lines if I had been able to. “

Rooper and Irons head a cast that also includes Kelsey Grammer, Paul Wesley, Kate Mulgrew, Alana Boden, Hannah Dodd, T’Shan Williams, Luke Fetherston and Harry Hamlin. Just like Rooper and Irons, Hamlin was not familiar with “Flowers in the Attic” when he was offered the role in “Origins.”

Hamlin had only done two projects during the pandemic and he was eager to find a good role. He quickly found out just how dark a role he would be playing.

It was the combination of the strong cast and his love of working on projects set in a different time period that were the deciding factors.

“I love doing period pieces. My training is classical and so I’m very much attracted to anything period,” Hamlin says. “As far as costumes go, I think [Sir Laurence] Olivier once talked about a green umbrella that he once used when he was doing ‘The Entertainer.’

“He couldn’t quite get into character until he touched and held this green umbrella. Certainly the wardrobe in this piece is extraordinary. They built a jacket for me that was amazing and when I put that on, I immediately found Mr. Winfield.”

The new production is just a small part of Lifetime’s commitment to the works of V.C. Andrews. The cable company has acquired the rights and licenses to the writer’s entire catalog, including all new releases. 

Additionally, Lifetime will have 14 titles from the V.C. Andrews movie collection available on digital platforms starting through Aug. 31. Available titles include “Dark Angel,” “Fallen Hearts,” “Gates of Paradise,” “Web of Dreams,” “Heaven,” “Flowers in the Attic,” “Petals in the Wind,” “Seeds of Yesterday,” “If There Be Thorns,” “My Sweet Audrina,” “Ruby,” “Pearl in the Mist,” “All That Glitters” and “Hidden Jewel.”