The Luminaries: plot, New Zealand filming locations and who stars in the cast of the new BBC TV series alongside Eve Hewson

Eva Green in The Luminaries (Photo: BBC)Eva Green in The Luminaries (Photo: BBC)
Eva Green in The Luminaries (Photo: BBC)
The series is based on Eleanor Catton’s Man Booker Prize-winning novel of the same name

The Luminaries - a new, star-studded drama – began on BBC One on Sunday 21 June.

Episode two follows tonight (22 June) Monday night, with the six-part series continuing on Sunday nights until its finale.

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But what’s it all about, where was it filmed, and who stars in it?

Himesh Patel as Emery in The Luminaries (Photo: BBC)Himesh Patel as Emery in The Luminaries (Photo: BBC)
Himesh Patel as Emery in The Luminaries (Photo: BBC)

Here’s everything you need to know:

What is The Luminaries about?

Based on Eleanor Catton’s Man Booker Prize-winning novel of the same name, the six-part saga centres on New Zealand’s South Island, and the 19th-century gold rush which turned the region upside down.

According to the BBC, “The Luminaries tells an intricately woven, suspenseful tale of love, murder, magic, and revenge.

(Photo: BBC)(Photo: BBC)
(Photo: BBC)

The story begins in 1865, and follows Anna Wetherell as she travels to New Zealand to forge a new life.

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On the last day of her voyage, a romantic first encounter with Emery Staines fills her with great expectations for what lies ahead. But a scheming fortune-teller has other ideas for Anna, and lays a trap to ensure that the planned rendezvous between the young lovers never takes place.

Drawn into an elaborate plot of blackmail, opium, gold, shipwreck, fraud, and false identity, Anna’s fortunes begin to fall, and she’s ultimately framed for murder and fighting for her life.

But Anna and Emery are what is known as ‘astral twins’: they were born at the very same instant, and under the very same sky, which means that they share a single destiny...

Who stars in it?

Himesh Patel, who is best known for playing Tamwar Masood on EastEnders from 2007 to 2016, plays Emery, while Anna is played by Eve Hewson (Bridge of Spies).

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Eva Green (Penny Dreadful) portrays brothel madam Lydia Wells, and also among the cast are Ewen Leslie (The Cry) as Crosbie Wells, and Marton Csokas (XXX) as Francis Carver.

Where in New Zealand was The Luminaries filmed?


Auckland, on New Zealand’s North Island, is the location where most of the filming for The Luminaries was completed.

With around 1.5 million inhabitants, Auckland is the country’s most populous city

Referencing the desirability of its natural resources and geography, its Maori name is Tāmaki Makaurau, meaning “Tāmaki desired by many”.

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Auckland ranked third in the 2019 Mercer Quality of Living Survey, making it one of the most liveable cities in the world, but it is also one of the most expensive.

The Bay of Islands

A natural harbour archipelago made up of 144 separate islands, The Bay of Islands lies on the east coast of New Zealand’s North Island.

The one used most for filming The Luminaries was Waitangi, an island with a name name that means “weeping waters” in Maori.

On 6 February 1840, the Treaty of Waitangi was signed here, a fact for which the island is perhaps best known.

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But the island’s history of diplomacy goes back further still; it is also the place where New Zealand’s Declaration of Independence was signed five years earlier.


Found on the west coast of New Zealand’s South Island, near the mouth of the Hokitika River, the small town of Hokitika has a population of just 3,000.

Making it a very authentic filming location for the show, in real life, the town was founded on gold mining in 1964, and was used for the final few days of filming.

From Hokitika’s main street, you can see Aoraki, also known as Mount Cook, on a clear day.

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