His Dark Materials forced to cut James McAvoy from season 2 as Lord Asriel standalone episode axed

James McAvoy will no longer appear in the second season of His Dark Materials.

The acclaimed actor played Lord Asriel in the fantasy drama's debut season, but won't be returnin to the role when series 2 drops.

During a Comic Con panel discussion executive producer Jane Tranter confirmed that the season will only consist of seven episodes, after the eighth planned episode was called off due to coronavirus filming restirctions.

The global shutdown of TV production saw many series postponed, but fortunately His Dark Materials has already filmed the rest of the season, enuring no severe delays.

The episode was set to be a self-contained narrative and was based off new events not included in Phillip Pullman's books.

“It was separate from the other seven episodes because it was a standalone episode which Jack had written with the blessing and input of Philip Pullman, which looked at what Lord Asriel had been doing between going through the anomaly at the end of season one and when we see Lord Asriel at the beginning of book three The Amber Spyglass,” Tranter said.

“It meant that we could continue post-production on the seven episodes that make up The Subtle Knife and just put the Asriel standalone episode to one side and maybe in the future we can revisit it as a standalone," she continued.

"But essentially our adaptation of The Subtle Knife (Pullman's second novel) had been completed.”

The second season will track the fallout from Lord Asriel opening a bridge to a new world.

Still in mourning for her best friend, Lyra (Dafne Keen) follows Asriel into the mysterious realm, where she finds an abandoned city.

It is there that she meets Will (Amir Wilson), who resides in our world, and is also trying to shake off a troubled past.

Lyra and Will soon discover that their fates are intertwined as they try to reunite Will with his father, but war soon starts to brew around them.

Elsewhere, Mrs. Coulter (Ruth Wilson) embarks on another hunt for Lyra, determined to bring her home whatever it takes.

In other His Dark Materials news, Phoebe Waller-Bridge is set to reunite with Fleabag's Hot Priest in season 2.

The pair have joined forces again as she plays the voice of hisdaemon.

The two had electric chemistry during their time on BBC One's comedy-drama Fleabag and now it looks like they'll be able to do it all again.

Despite the part of Phoebe's character only being a small segment of the new series, Andrew is ecstatic to be working with his former co-star again.

He said: "My daemon is going to be played by somebody who is very close to me in real life which is a young performer and writer called Phoebe Waller-Bridge."

The actor added: "It's all about companionship and friendship and loyalty and that's what I feel about Phoebe in my real life.

"So, it's wonderful that that's happening."

His Dark Materials first aired in November last year and is adaptation of the novel series of the same name written by Philip Pullman.

In the show, Andrew plays Will Parry's dad, John Parry.

The first series adapted events of The Golden Compass and the latest series will portray the story of The Subtle Knife.

The current series was originally supposed to have eight episodes, but due to the coronavirus pandemic, they will now only air seven.

But Andrew is most well known for his role as The Hot Priest on BBC One's popular telly show Fleabag.

The lovebirds set tongues wagging after the pair got down and dirty in the church – knowing full well that it's not allowed.

Fleabag was left heart broken at the end of series when he chose to stay with God and in the priesthood, instead of being with her.

And it looks like The Hot Priest won't be returning to our screens anytime soon, after creator of the show, Phoebe, confirmed that fans shouldn't expect to see third series anytime in the future.

When asked backstage at the Emmys in 2019, she said: “To be honest, this just feels like the most beautiful, beautiful way to say goodbye to it, actually.

“It does feel like the story is complete… It does feel right. Go out on a high. You can’t get higher than this.”

You can catch the second season of His Dark Materials on BBC One later this year.

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